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sangiro

Eric (Tonto) Stephenson - Goodbye my friend

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Tonto & I used to argue about non-skydive issues BUT when it came to safety issues he was my identical twin - he never questioned the calls I made even when he had to keep his students on the ground - I respected this about him! He sometimes said that he was thinking, whilst stuck in traffic, about this or that & I once asked him if that's the only time that he thought - you can imagine the tongue lashing I received, with his straight face he still made me pack-up laughing! We had many laughs together & i know these memories will live forever!
Condolences to all his loved ones!

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Who will be the great-celebrated singers, dancers, poets, laughers and lovers?

Who will risk being Zorba, leaping onto the tabletop, wildly spinning and offering heart and soul to living a life of fullness and love?

Who among us will refuse to buy into the conspiracy of this world that asks us to play small?

Dare you take a stand for love in this life and allow your own particular creative expression to flow through you, to fly?

Despite the seeming fear of danger of doing so, the instant that you make such a leap of faith, you join the rank of greatness!

Every moment you continue to hold back and hide your divinity, your own power and love, you hide in the halls of mediocrity.

The difference is courage to dare being fully alive in such a world where everyone is living a careful life and trying not to disturb the status quo, passively hoping for the best, desperately trying to outwit disease and death.

Who dares to be fully alive in the midst of all that?

Who among us will be great?

Well, if not you, then who?

Author unknown

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Tonto was a good friend and teacher. I’ve knew him since I started jumping in February 2005, switching to AFF after 6 SL jumps. His enthusiasm for the sport was apparent and contagious.

I remember the 2nd week I was out at the DZ. We were having a beer in the bush pub. I wasn’t one of his students yet. (He had no issues coming to share some thoughts with a student). We discussed EP’s and his words to me was ‘…you’ve got an advantage you did your FJC last week. You still remember the stuff'

Later he taught me some other stuff like:

“..The ground will not ask you how many jumps you have before it’s comes out to kill you.”

“...Maintain you equipment. We die easy”

“…all mushrooms are edible …. At least once”

Too many to recite.

Still later when I broke my ankle in an out landing, jumping from a balloon, he was there first waiting with me for my ride (photo attached) sharing stories of his own accidents.

Tonto taught, learned and lived skydiving. He will be missed.

JSC will not be the same.

JC

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Still later when I broke my ankle in an out landing, jumping from a balloon, he was there first waiting with me for my ride (photo attached) sharing stories of his own accidents.



Now thats the one thing that was always a constant with Tonto, he would never fly off the handle when you did something silly and hurt yourself in the sport, he would use it as a tool to educate not only yourself but others at the DZ.

I remember when I flew a friends FX 96 into the ground .... so not my finest moment, and I should have known better. He chatted to me about what I thought I did wrong and how I could prevent that from happening again. While others stood around a spoke smack etc

Humble and open ...

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We're born with a pre-determined amount of heartbeats. You can't stretch them out, but you can figure how you want to use the ones you have.

In his writings here, he seemed to be complete. He used that last heartbeat the way he wanted to. Bless him for that.

Blue skies, always, Eric!~~April


Camelot II, the Electric Boogaloo!

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Holy shit...
I've just heard a few minutes ago.
Although I only met Tonto a few times he had a huge impact on my life as a skydiver. He got me hooked onto the nylon crack. And even though we only shared one wingsuit flight together he was always there for anyone who needed advice on skydiving and life. He will be sorely missed by the Birdmen of the Namib.

Ca-Caah!!!! My friend and mentor.
Blue Skies and eternal flights.
Condolences to his kids and to Taya.

Join you sometime for the big flock in the sky.
Courteney.
Drags me down, like some sweet gravity...
Nightwing has stirred, and taken to flight...the silence is over, he's shattered the night!!!

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I'm not going to read through all of these before telling you my story about Tonto. I never even met him, yet he was incredibly friendly and helpful introducing me to the South African skydiving community, to the extent that I was back in South Africa 'gatecrashing' the honeymoon of two friends I met at Wonderboom when we got the news of his death.

He was always helpful, friendly and someone whose advice I trusted, shame he isn't around to give me advice when I'll next need it (whether I want it or not!).

Howzit Tonto, although we never met, you are special to me and gave me some fantastic friends I'll have for the rest of my life. I can never thank you enough for that.

tash
Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is a special occasion. Avril Sloe

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Blue Skies Eric. We never met and we didn't always see eye to eye here, but what you said was always well stated and thought through. Although I didn't always agree, I did have respect for what you said even if it may not have shown. If you or others who knew you didn't think so, I regret that.

My best to your family and friends. I hope they give you a good send off. It would seem well deserved.

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I copied this PM here as it touched me so much when he sent to to me last year after I broke myself - he didn't know me then, and yet cared enough to lend some friendly advice:
"Sorry to hear that. I had heard there were 2 incidents at Wonderboom on Saturday AM, but I had no idea it was you.

It's a long road to getting better, and the worst thing is, you're not sick (you're broken) but people treat you like you're sick.

You'll be very frustrated at times. Please, please be careful with your loved ones, esp your boyfriend. I was a complete assh0le when I bust myself and destroyed a good relationship, so be careful.

Accept the pain, and work REALLY hard in Physio from right now. Don't accept that you won't be perfect. Don't!

If you need insight or advice or just need to whine, go ahead, OK?

Blue SKies,

t "

Thanks T - you were right. I am now married to that boyfriend (the honeymoon that Skytash crashed - thanks my friend! :)
:(:(:(
Blue skies, t
Fly free forever

-Chanti-

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Opening that incident report was one that I did not want to open. I read the sticky posted to collect fund's for Tonto's memorial and I was like WHAT???? Tonto's memorial???? WTF?

I of course went to the incident reports and found one in South Africa. In disbelief, I opened it really not wanting to. So here I am posting in the Blue Skies In Memory of. In total shock.

I never knew Tonto personally but I just adored the guy on Dz.com. We always seemed to be on the same page about things and Tonto always had something useful and helpful to offer. I very much enjoyed getting to know him on Dz.com.

Terrible for his family and his girls to see. I am glad they will be going to counseling. Poor babies. You are all in my thoughts. Sending cyber hugs and strength to family and friends. :(
Roy Bacon: "Elvises, light your fires."

Sting: "Be yourself no matter what they say."

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What an awful loss! It seems the DZ.comers that I respected the most are leaving us....First Deuce and now Tonto. They may be gone, but not forgotten. Wishing Eric's family the best in getting through this terrible time. Goodbye Brother!...

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“Patrick De Gayardon, Rob Harris, Tom Piras, Roger Nelson, etc……… They were Kings - World Champions - Icons.
They had talent, were hugely current, had incredible skills... And yet the ground offered them no concession for their level of skill or experience.”

Tonto – 2005



He was an Icon and my friend.

Sparky
My idea of a fair fight is clubbing baby seals

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Tonto was a real character. Always outspoken, always fun and always an inspiration.

There are a few people I'll always remember from my early days of skydiving at Stellenbosch. Tonto is definitely one of them.

I remember him renaming my mate Frank because Gerwald was too hard to say and it stuck. That was Tonto's typical irreverant sense of humour.

I remember him and Gary Beyer arriving at the DZ with knuckles scarred and bleeding from KungFu training... that was the level of their dedication to everything they did.

I remember him encouraging me and teaching me and I'm glad he did, I've had a great life in the sport.

I remember him arriving back at Stellies after a year or two in the States on the cutting edge with his new Jonathan.

I'm glad he was still living life to the full and striving for that edge.

Go Tonto!

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Getting a phone call that Eric died in a swoop. What a tragedy. My condolences to Taya and Eric's family. I hired Eric as an instructor at my drop zone. Perris's loss. My gain. What a tremendous instructor and friend. I had the priviledge of teaching him tandem and watching him use this new tool. My favorite picture of him is on a tandem at sunset with that big grin. Skydiving has lost a really good leader and teacher. Rest in peace, fly free forever Eric. Jeff
Rule #1 of Skydiving: Safely Land An Open Parachute!

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