Steven Escontrias Armstrong
January 9, 1954 - July 14, 2019
Steven Escontrias Armstrong died suddenly on Sunday, July 14 in Las Vegas. His partner, Boyd Smith, was with him when he died. He was 65.
Though sadly too short, Steve's life was one of enormous faith and achievement. He was born in Phoenix on January 9, 1954, to Elizabeth Escontrias Armstrong and Jesse James Armstrong. A gifted student, he graduated from Brophy College Preparatory, whose Jesuit teachings would help guide his path through life. From Brophy, Steve moved east to attend Yale University. He graduated in 1976 with a combined degree in Latin and French; at Yale he was also active in theater and with St. Thomas More House.
In 1977, Steve joined the Society of Jesus, entering the Jesuit Novitiate in Montecito, California. His ten-year path to ordination led him to do community work at St. Ignatius Mission, Montana, and in Tijuana. It also led him to Fordham University, where he earned an M.A. in Philosophy; to Maryknoll Seminary, in the Bronx, where he earned an M.A. in Eastern Christian Theology; and to the Boston Theological Institute, where he earned an M.Div in Eastern and Western Theology. Later he would do Ph.D work in Eastern and Western Church History at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Steve was ordained in 1987. During his studies, he had grown increasingly interested in eastern rite Catholicism. After ordination, he moved to San Francisco to serve as priest and director of Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, then on Lake Street. Here Steve deployed his energy, erudiction and considerable social skills to strengthening the church and making connections with other eastern Catholic churches throughout the Bay Area and the nation. He also taught at the University of San Francisco.
Steve left the Jesuits in the early 2000s to be with his partner, Boyd. They would remain devoted to each other until Steve's death. Even after leaving the order, Steve remained in contact with the Jesuit community. His next career was with Rosicrucian Order at their headquarters in San Jose. Here he served as an administrator, librarian, educator and curator, working both in San Jose and at the Rosicrucian Center in Manhattan. He and Boyd moved to Las Vegas in the fall of 2018, Steve saying he was happy to be back in the desert southwest of his childhood.
Steve was a Renaissance Man, or, to put it another way, a one-man Renaissance. A supremely gifted teacher and writer, he had the ability to explain complex theological concepts engagingly and intelligibly. He was comfortable in a Vatican museum and in a Mission taqueria; adept at discussing St. Augustine and Aquinas and equally adept at weighing the relative merits of Star Trek captains Kirk, Picard, and Janeway. Most of all, he was a devoted partner to Boyd and a devoted companion to their beloved Skye Terrier, Angus.
There will a memorial service held for Steve on Sunday, August 4 at 3 P.M. at the Rosicrucian Grand Temple, 1345 Randol Avenue—between Park and Chapman Avenues—in San Jose. There will be a simulcast of the service in New York City on Sunday, August 4 at 6 P.M. at the Rosicrucian Cultural Center, 2303 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., at 135th and 7th in Harlem.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Jul. 26 to Jul. 28, 2019.