Stephan Hoyt Putnam
Stephan Hoyt Putnam, teacher, writer, and Papa to a loving family, left his earthly life on Nov. 14, 2023, following a long journey with Parkinson’s disease.
Steve was born in Niagara Falls, New York, July 21, 1943, to Clair Putnam, a chemist, and Ida Coons Putnam, a nurse. His father’s work brought the family, including sisters Linda and Christina, to Niagara Falls, Morgantown, West Virginia, and Brockport, New York, before finally settling in Madison, where Steve completed high school. Some of Steve’s fond high school memories are chronicled in his book When We Were Young Together: The Lost Senior Essays of 1961.
From there, Steve ventured to Valparaiso University in Indiana, where he met his first wife, Kathleen, mother to sons Matthew and Jay. His love of literature took him to Northern Illinois University, Old Dominion College, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph.D. in American literature with a dissertation on the work of William Golding. Steve also had a passion for social justice that was ignited while working in Chicago’s Cabrini Green. Raised Lutheran, he was active in growing Chapel Hill’s Church of Reconciliation.
Steve was a teacher, above all, and his love of education brought him to the Northeast, first to the University of New Hampshire, then to Yarmouth, Maine, where he taught English for 20 years. He was an inspiring presence in the classroom, dedicated to great books and invigorating teaching methods. Also at Yarmouth High School, Steve founded the Yarmouth Playmakers, where he cultivated a passion for theater in a generation of students. Some memorable productions included The Crucible, Godspell, Grease, Man of La Mancha, and many state-champion one-act play festival productions.
Steve brought great empathy and care to his interactions, and his skills with group dynamics led to professional work with the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. He always worked to carve out space for men to develop friendship and understanding, which led to his work with the organizations Mainely Men and Maine Boys to Men. A wonderful storyteller, Steve had a passion for writing throughout his life. He also enjoyed basketball, running, scuba diving, his many travels, dancing, singing, holding babies, and entertaining children.
Steve met Mary Lou Michael in 1993, and they have been together since that very first date. They supported each other in pursuing their own passions while they found joy in weaving their lives together. They were partners in adventures: restoring “the Road House” in South Freeport and joining with cherished friends Karen Moran, Dick Hallstein, Marilyn Bronzi, and Jim Singer to create a home in Yarmouth. They were partners in their dedication to family, celebrating the marriages of their children and becoming Papa and Nonnie to nine grandchildren. And when Steve was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2003, they became partners in meeting those challenges, Steve with fierce determination and Mary Lou with unwavering devotion.
Steve leaves behind Mary Lou Michael and a wide and loving circle of family: sons Matthew Putnam (Rosemary Deane) and Jay Putnam (Hayley), stepchildren Dana Anderson (Erik) and Josh Maisel (Eden), grandchildren Levi, Emerson, Eliana, Maggie, Conrad, Gus, Leo, Weber, and Tyler; sisters Linda Erat and Christina Charlton, nephews Will, Tom and Ny Erat, Sam and Andy Charlton, their spouses, a generation of great nieces and nephews, and a family of cousins. Steve also leaves behind a wide and loving circle of friends whose presence greatly enlivened his life as he did theirs.
Steve’s family gives thanks to The Mooring on Foreside for their love and commitment to Steve’s wellbeing and to Hospice of Southern Maine for their compassionate care. Steve has left a legacy that has influenced the lives of so many. May his memory be a blessing.
The family invites you to a memorial service on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. at Maine Coast Waldorf School’s Merriconneag Community Hall (Freeport), with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Steve’s memory to Center for Grieving Children, 555 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME 04101 (www.cgcmaine.org); Maine Boys to Men, PO Box 8325, Portland, ME 04104 (www.maineboystomen.org) or a non-profit organization of your choice.