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sangiro

Eric (Tonto) Stephenson - Goodbye my friend

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I met Tonto in the early '90's in Perris. We spent a lot of time together around the bonfire, calm, nice man.
He will be missed.

peace, jeanie
~~We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly~~MLK

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Hey Kaero, you have a wonderful way with words. Been over a month now, hey?

Drove through to Carltonville for Eric's memorial service and got absolutely lost. Time against me, just I drove home again. Gotta get myself a GPS.

Notwithstanding connotations associated with the movie, Eric had "A Beautiful Mind"

That’s how I’ll remember him.

Kevin

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I havent been on these forums in ages and have'nt jumped in years, but it was like a cold steel rod went through my chest when i read that Tonto is gone.

He was my jumpmaster on more than one occasion at JSC and was someone i admired as being very commited to the sport and to the people he trained.

Blue skies forever, you will be missed:(


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This was posted on the local listserve of the dropzone Tonto called home - Johannesburg Skydiving Club www.jsc.co.za

--------

Dear Raymond,
I do not have the E Mail address of the Dropzone, so could you please send it to the Club on our behalf? How are you and all the skydivers who knew our boy Tonto? We as a small family owe you so much - we could never thank you enough for your kindness, care, and love in this dark time.....so much was organised and beautifully organised, with great kindness, unbelievable the help and support we had from all of Eric's friends.

We are daily in touch with his love Taya and what an honour to have her as virtually another member of our family...we are bound together with this tragedy for ever...no matter what happens in her life in the future, there will always be the 7 years that she was the light of his life, and as she said so emphatically at the Memorial service, "He was my Life!!!!"

She has been so wise, so fair in her decisions especially as regards the two girls. They were Eric's greatest joy and he provided for them and their Education, school and university, as well as maintenance till they are 25. Even Susan told us that Eric was a wonderful Father.

James Melliar told us that you guys made him so welcome that he felt like one of you when he arrived that day at the Club. He also visited us in Wellington and he has always been like another son to us. Pierre was so kind to let us meet at his lovely home to allow us to talk and think about Eric's Life that calm night. We are in debt to you all...the lovely Ute and her blond friend, Maresh and Bert as well as lovely Samantha with Gavin and Julia Schook who are like parents to Caleigh and little Shanna. We are truly blessed that Tonto was so loved...Justice and Thomas included.

Now that he is gone and we are such a small family..just the two of us and Colleen Tonto's only sister, who is completely broken. She keeps on saying "He was my Rock" my little brother who grew into my strength, he had such insight into her problems and was there with advice for all of us. We want you to know that now that he is gone and out of our sight, we will be so happy to talk about him to any of you passing through Wellington. You are part of him and knew him nearly better than we did. We were not aware of all the kind things he did for little Silindile ..he and Taya...they gave her a life with sounds of love and care as Pam explained to us. How proud she was of him....that he walked in the shacks of Diepkloof and Kliptown without fear...that God walked with him. Taya and Tonto finding fresh live chickens for the l70 young Aids Orphans that she teaches and feeds and dresses and educates...virtually an impossible task for one Good Woman to cope with.

We want to thank you as a unique group of friends for starting a fund for the little deaf Silindile....otherwise how would her poor parents with scarcely enough to eat, have paid for her taxi to take her from the shack to the School at St. Vincents? We believe what you give away is never lost !

Thinking back to that day that Tonto was honoured by his Sky-family in that large tent... filled with friends, family and flowers...tall white flowers and hundreds of long stemmed red roses....it was so beautiful a memory. The fact that Taya's father came from America and that he was the first one to tell us about this special boy called Eric....was a great comfort to us. We were told that all the Skydiving Clubs closed for THAT Saturday in honour of such a dedicated Sky-lover who cared so deeply about the Sport. What a deep thought!
Raymond how much we appreciated your plea for good in everything that day..from your pure heart..and you know how deeply we believe in our Lord Jesus..thank you again.

We cannot think about Eric without thinking of his Life with you. Please come and have a cup of tea and we can keep a small link with you and your sport. Thank you for your unbelievable support and generous contributions towards Eric's life. Our fondest love and appreciation. Thank you Raymond for helping us to convey our thanks and thoughts to his friends.

Love to all, with future thanks for keeping an eye on the young girls some weekends when they visit you!

Much love....
from John and Edith Stephenson.

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Today is five years since my first jump. Five years since i first looked at your smiling face in the sky. I've come a long way since then, and you were with me every step of the way. There's not a day that goes by that i don't think about you and i don't think there ever will be again. I miss you my friend, i hope you're swooping the hell out of those pearly gates.

Advertisio Rodriguez / Sky

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Not sure where else to post this but we got word today on one of our radio's that a company, not sure of the name, is sponsaring Sindile's, the little deaf girl t was sposaring out of his own pocket, full education. Now as far as I am interpreting this it means that all her books, taxi fares, and school tuition is paid for until she matriculates. Christmas came early today :)

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The company's name is Aon (medical aid?). Silindile was chosen for the 'Christmas Wish' by a local radio station (94.7 Highveld Stereo) and Aon stepped up. Below is the excerpt from their website:

" 3. Silindile

Our third wish this morning comes from a friend, namely Chantelle Williams. Her friend Taya has been supporting little Silindile for a few years now. Unfortunately Silindile is def and required special schooling, for which Taya has been helping out with. The problem is that Taya is only a student and sometimes cannot afford to support Silindile, but nevertheless always finds a way! Together we need to ensure that Silindile is looked after for many years to come, and Athene Van Mazijk, CEO of Aon South Africa is proud to help out and to sponsor Silindile’s school fees at ST Vincent’s and the transport to and from her school for the rest of her schooling career. "

Respect!

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Hey all! Great news!

Our local radio station granted "Silindile's Christmas Wish" - they organized an SA medical company to pay for her tuition fees, uniforms, text books and transport costs for her entire school career! :)
Check out wish #3: http://www.highveld.co.za/thelounge/events/Christmas_Wishlist_20071112/Wish_Granted/Wish_Day_14.asp



& be sure to listen to the podcast! :)
A VERY MERRY UNBIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!
D.S # 125

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I knew Eric well when he jumped at Skydive ElDorado in Kansas. I was a jump pilot and I remember him joking about driving a borrowed car and getting pulled over by the police and handing the cop a South African driver's license. The cop didn't know what to do with it so he finally let him off with a warning.

Blue skies, Eric.
How high are we going? Oh about 9000. Oh Mr. Pilot! How high are we going? Oh about 12000! That's the ticket!

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Man, in general, is ignorant of his divinity. His mind and consciousness are veiled by the false light of Maya. Maya is the way we perceive and interpret Reality... We perceive not what is, but what we believe to be. Maya produces a deceiving state of duality, of object and subject. All appearances in the mind and consciousness as a product of Maya are illusory and unreal. The mind, not understanding the nature of Maya, is indeed the slayer of the Real. This ignorance of Reality causes man's prolonged stay in samsara. Recognition of the Clear Light, of Reality, of the Unity of Being, releases man from his spiritual bondage. ..Man's loftiest aspiration should be directed to the awakening to Reality as the highest religious goal, and this illumination naturally terminates the ceaseless rounds of birth and rebirth in the samsaric worlds.



fair well my friend, one hopes most for your translation beyond the wheel.

Yet I cant help (selfishly) wishing to meet you again.....
____________________________________
Those who fail to learn from the past are simply Doomed.

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Holidays are always difficult when you have lost someone you love. I went to the African Freefall Convention fearing the pain of Eric not being there, fearing the ghosts of our time there together two years ago when we organized wingsuit flocks and ran the first PASA wingsuit instructor rating course together. There was pain, but I found home and redemption in the warmth of friendship and the freedom of the big sky.

On 29 December, I jumped again for the first time since he died. I cried in the plane. I cried while flying. I cried under canopy, and after landing. Thank you to those who quietly held my hand, gave me hugs, and without saying anything respected what I was going through as I processed the loss of my life partner, a man I spent more than 5 years with.

Caleigh did an amazing job managing business in the canteen. When I look at her I see so much of Eric, and I was honoured to have her in the PAC on the sunset load 31 December when I went up to do a 2-way with him and try to say goodbye. I asked her to hold onto my engagement ring for me until landing. I had not jumped without it since he gave it to me over Easter in 2006 and needed to know that I could.

I jumped out and had more than two minutes of flying with him off my wingtip. We came around the edge of a cloud and into the setting sun, and as I felt him next to me hot tears welled up in my goggles. Every flight, no matter how beautiful, has to end. We choose life; we pull. I said goodbye.

Although I still get that clenching pain in my chest from his loss, I feel more peaceful accepting that everything changes. This is what he believed and practiced: "life is pain". Pain is just the other side of joy and love. I miss a lot of things, the hardest of which is the connection to Caleigh and Shanna that came from his role both as father and partner to me. But no one can fill his shoes now that he's gone. We can only reassess our own journeys in light of the space he has left along our paths. I am proud of the man he was, the partner he was, and of his soul's journey.

It is a new year, and there is goodness in remembering how he took pride in the accomplishments of those he cared for. Somewhere around the 15th skydive at Mafikeng I realized that smiling in the open door of the Porter is as much tribute to the way he loved and lived as my tears are. And as I let go, I feel him more and more as part of me.

I hope the same will be true for his daughters, and that they will continue getting to know their dad. Not just the skydiver and skydiving legend, not just the dropzone regular with a unique sense of humour who lived to jump. He was so much more than that in the last five years: a man with a successful professional career, who recognized the value of spending time with his loved ones off the DZ as well as in the air, who wanted his kids to go to university and see the world and live a well-rounded life. He had found balance, however tenuous. Perhaps because I am a skydiver too, I admire the way he applied compassion and commitment both within and outside of the sport--something that can be very difficult to do.

I honour my life partner, a man with whom I found true love and real friendship. I believe that what he did in life is more important than his death. Now that he is gone I will continue to love him in the way I live.

-T

t, it's soon to be the Year of the Rat... wish you were here.
It's the Year of the Dragon.

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That was beautiful.

I don't know you or Eric, but I always enjoyed his thoughtful posts.

I wish you continued strength in the time ahead, and more happiness than pain.

Blue skies.
"At 13,000 feet nothing else matters."
PFRX!!!!!
Team Funnel #174, Sunshine kisspass #109
My Jump Site

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Another tribute that I think belongs here, by our kung fu teacher, was translated and read by a friend at t's memorial service.

My name is Raymond Keung, I’ve been Eric’s Kungfu teacher. Eric and I met in 2003. At the time, we were staying in the same building. Initially, we merely used to exchange greetings in the corridors. One night in 2004, I was teaching a student in our parking lot. Eric and Taya saw us and asked whether I would be willing to teach them Kungfu. As I later discovered, Eric has been doing martial arts from a very young age. Eric was the 2nd student I have in South Africa. Taya was the 3rd. That night, our relation as teach and student began and from then on, every Wednesday night, we trained.

Eric was a keen student. His physical as well as mental strengths were remarkable. He showed a genuine respect towards the Chinese culture and the teacher student relationship.

Eric was always willing to offer a helping hand. Despite the many demands on his time, he agreed to help me set up a Kungfu school. Unfortunately, this meant that he had to sacrifice many precious Friday nights in Braamfontein and often needed to drive after training to JSC very late at night. During classes, Eric assisted in the teaching of students. He demonstrated an extraordinary ability to explain martial art concepts. I’ve no doubt that he employed the same coaching style during skydiving. In addition to the classes, Eric helped me during many Lion dance shows, whether at the Chinese New Year festival celebrations in Town or other ceremonies. Eric was part of the Kungfu school, part of the family.

Eric was devoted to his own family. Once I saw in our parking lot that Eric was helping his daughter to learn to ride the bicycle, a sign of a caring father.

His love for Taya was deep. Eric and I often spoke openly about many things during Kungfu trainings. He was often afraid that their relationship would put undue pressure on Taya during her studies. However, despite the testing period of physical separation, they managed to maintain their relationship. This is only possible through deep and unconditional love.

The last time I saw Eric was during my birthday in July this year. Eric was there with his two daughters. We took our last picture together that day.

Eric’s passion for martial arts arose from his desire to explore, his desire to experience life to the fullest and his appreciation for the true meaning of life. These attributes are rare and admirable. The manner in which Eric carried himself in the capacities as a student, a teacher, a father and a partner to Taya showed that he was a selfless who always gave out more than he took back. He was my dearest student and friend and will remain in our memories forever.

From myself: I got to know t, as many of you did, through the AFF course. But more than that, I started skydiving at a time when I was desperately seeking meaning in my life. More than skydiving, t introduced Kungfu to me. Through t’s introduction, I have rediscovered my cultural roots by starting Kungfu under the teachings of Sifu Keung. Tonto has taught me, in the 2 or so years I’ve known him, more about skydiving, Kungfu and life than most people I’ve come across. Those evenings of Kungfu training between Sifu Keung, Eric, Taya and me in that parking lot will be fondly remembered. I will practice Kungfu for the rest of my able life. And I’d like to think that in so doing, I’ll be carrying with me Tonto’s teachings and influence everywhere I go.
It's the Year of the Dragon.

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