Steve Van Strum
1939 - 2021
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Stevens (Steve Van Strum)
April 19, 1939 - March 19, 2021
Stevens (Steve Van Strum) died March 19, 2021 at 81 of a stroke. Steve's love of books and passion for the arts and for environmental justice were legendary.
As co-owner and manager of Cody's Bookstore in Berkeley; as co-founder of Oyez Press, which solicited poems from noteworthy American poets like Gary Snyder, Robert Duncan et al to be published in a series of broadsides, effectively pioneering this publishing medium for poetry, and as co-founder of Hulogosi Communications which published Hal Hartzell's books on the Hoedads' Cooperative and Yew Tree, he was always willing to support creative projects. More recently he designed and published his composer friend, Don Cobb's series of songs and accompanying website.
He married Carol Scott in 1962 and had five children, Anna, Daphne, Alexey, Juris, and Benjamin. In 1969 they moved to Oregon and settled in the foothills near Tidewater. When the children were sickened with the herbicide sprayed by the Forest Service, they and neighbors co-founded Citizens Against Toxic Sprays, (CATS) and successfully sued the U.S. Forest Service to stop spraying Agent Orange onto Oregon forests and homesteads. Following this, they spent six years as key players in the U.S. EPA's effort to ban 2,4,5-T, the toxic key ingredient in Agent Orange. Steve separated from Carol, but they remained in close contact. Tragically, their four living children died in a fire at Five Rivers in 1978. Subsequently, he moved to Eugene. At each home, he planted trees and large vegetable gardens whose produce he shared with friends and institutions. He would spend summers in Maine and often winters in Hawaii.
Born in New York, April 19, 1939, Steve was the only son of Kenneth S. Van Strum and Anna Cecilia Zimmermann. His earliest years were spent in Laurel Hollow, Long Island while his father commuted to NYC. A war-time victory garden stimulated a lifelong passion for gardening. He was educated at the Thatcher School with emphasis in music and classics. At Yale and the University of California, Berkeley and Southern California, he became a lifelong avid reader described by friends as the most literate person they ever knew.
His last seven years were spent in a bright, book-filled apartment in Eugene, reading, listening to music, viewing films, writing blogs, and meeting with his closest friends. He is deeply missed by all who knew him for his generosity, photographic memory, cornucopian knowledge, love of books, horticulture, music, and food. He is survived by his sister, Cecilia Van Strum Nobel; and by Carol Van Strum who still lives in Five Rivers.
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Published in The Oregonian from Apr. 2 to Apr. 4, 2021.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by The Family
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6 entries
April 7, 2021
Thank you, Steve. You made a difference.
Greg Prull
April 7, 2021
Steve, praying for your peace and warmth in Heaven
John and Ana Gammon
April 5, 2021
I had the good fortune to count Steve as one of my regulars when I bartended at Jo Federigo’s in the 1990s. He would drop in periodically to check on my progress in graduate school, and we’d talk books and movies. He was kind, generous, and very, very funny.

I’m so very sorry to say that I did not stay in contact with Steve, but he has lived large in my thoughts, and I know I was lucky to know him.
kate Sullivan
April 5, 2021
I meet Steve when I video interviewed him about his work to stop herbicides. At that point, I’d known about him and his work for years. Later he contacted me and asked me to keep his collections of very early 1970-1980s videos about herbicide use in Western Oregon and more. He contacted me a couple of years ago, got the videos and transferred them to digital. He then brought the originals and copies back to me for safekeeping. The videos were used in the new documentary “The People vs Agent Orange”. Steven and I texted several weeks ago about the film. Ironically, we now live in a home he’d also lived in—in the early 2000s. Steve was an inspiration to me. I learned from his perspectives and his experiences. I sincerely and deeply appreciate him as amazing soul, and the work he did on behalf of all of us.
Amy Pincus Merwin
April 4, 2021
Steve was a good man and a good friend. We worked together on herbicides and also on poetry. He helped make the world
a better place.
Howard Horowitz
April 4, 2021
without knowing each other we traveled some similar life tracks....I was in Berkeley when he was at Cody's....and a few years later I was a Hoedad planting trees being introduced to Steve by our mutual friend Hal Hartzell...
peace brother I will treasure the time we spent together....RickHerson
rick herson
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