On Saturday night, before a crowd of nearly 150 Lopezians at the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts, Scott Steckler told a story from his childhood that changed his life, and the life of countless others, forever. It was 1976. He was nine years old, camping with his family at Odlin Park on the north end of Lopez Island. As they sat talking around the campfire, Scott remembers his mom saying: “I don’t want to camp on Lopez Island; I want to live on Lopez Island.” And so began forty years of conversation and community building, recognized Saturday night at the 15th Annual Lopez Spirit Award celebration.
The Spirit Award is presented to the individual or couple whose community involvement makes them the island’s unsung heroes. It was originally named for Dolly and Andy Holland, long time Lopez Island residents whose involvement and commitment to the island community lives on through individuals like Carol Steckler and Al Lorenzen, recipients of this year’s Spirit Award. Anybody can submit a Spirit Award nomination, which asks Lopezians to describe the ways nominees have embodied the Lopez Spirit: friendly, caring, reliable, helpful, unselfish, loving, generous and tolerant.
Carol and Al sat with expressions of total gratitude as more than a dozen Lopezians took turns at the mic to tell their personal stories of how their lives have been touched by these two pillars of the community. Keeping with Spirit Award tradition, the stories were kicked off by a past winner of the award. This year the torch was passed by Rhea Miller, who began a night of laughter, tears, singing, and hugs – the perfect expression of Lopez community. These stories included tales of how Carol and Al’s family started their Lopez life in a tent while friends around the island helped them build their house that sits above Hummel Lake. As the crowd loosened up, these stories went on to reveal the couple’s sense of humor – including the bit about how they played fairly involved pranks on newcomers to their home.
I learned a new vocabulary word on Saturday night: “Stecklered,” which I think needs a Wikipedia entry. Here’s how it was defined by Ken Booth: To Steckler (verb) – To cajole people into taking on a task for the Lopez community. This definition got a lot of laughs. It also got a lot of heads nodding and helped me understand the unique qualities of these individuals. Carol and Al have certainly contributed more than their fair share to Lopez – from opening their home to hundreds of interns to running the annual Lopez Juggle Fest. Perhaps more important is how these two inspire others to do good things for the community. One good friend said, “Carole and Al help everybody’s dreams move forward.” They’ve powered dreams in so many different ways – by establishing community theater on Lopez, creating the Alternative Classroom Program, establishing Lopez’s radio station and lobbying for island causes in Olympia. The list goes on and on and on. Kathy Booth nicely summarized the couple’s impact, telling them: “I want to grow up to be like you.”
One of Carol’s more noticeable Lopez contributions has been the fifteen community theater productions that she has led since the 80s, including The Grapes of Wrath, Fiddler on the Roof and The Wizard of Oz. In addition to playing many other roles for the community, including helping guide the radio station, KLOI (102.9 FM) Carol currently serves as volunteer coordinator at the Lopez Dump.
Al Lorenzen is a man of action. During his remarks, Scott Steckler described how Al quickly took action on Carol’s suggestion that they move their family to Lopez in 1976. He’s applied that same get-it-done approach to everything he’s done since then – tirelessly executing on the “Stecklerization” of the Lopez community. Al has become a regular at the Sunday night song circle at the Lopez Library. Fellow musicians described Al’s signature move, by which he brings the band’s songs to an end with a downward hand signal. We were lucky enough to see this move in action during the “Al and Friends” band performance that capped off the evening.
I continue to be amazed by the people of Lopez Island. Just as special as the contributions of people like Carol and Al is the community’s deep commitment to recognizing those contributions. Thank you, Lopezians. I want to grow up to be like you.
The Spirit Awards are just one of many very cool events at the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts. Check out their event schedule. I definitely need to get the Center in the Mixby app.