The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Obituary: Stan Stephens


September 25, 2013

Stan Stephens 1934-2013

Tourism pioneer and environmental steward Stan Stephens died in Valdez on September 21 of Amyloidosis, which affected the heart and nervous system. Born November 16, 1934 in Perham, Minnesota, Stan was the son of Frank and Doreen Stephens.

Stan moved to North Pole in 1961 and married the love of his life, Mary Helen Stephens, in 1964. They raised three daughters in North Pole where Stan worked as a mechanic; he spent his weekends exploring the state and Prince William Sound. He fell in love with PWS and in 1971 founded his first company, North Star Marine Charters, specializing in hunting and fishing tours out of Valdez. In 1978 he and Mary Helen founded Stan Stephens Charters, a company dedicated to sharing the glaciers and wildlife of PWS with tourists from around the country and the world. A pioneer of cruising in the region, he loved being on the water showcasing the place he loved the most.

Stan was one of the fathers of the Alaska tourism industry and was dogged in his pursuit of helping the industry thrive and grow. Not only did he diligently work to promote Valdez, he dedicated his time and resources to ensure that funding was present to market Alaska to the nation and the world. He was instrumental in the Alaska Visitors Industry Association, Alaska Wilderness Recreation Tourism Association, and the Alaska Travel industry Association.

Stan was a meticulous steward of Prince William Sound and after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, publically declared that he would dedicate the rest of his life to making sure the area was protected. He worked diligently with industry to ensure that PWS was a safe cold weather shipping port and to ensure that the environment and marine residents were protected.

Stan lived his life by the following guidelines: He implicitly trusted people and allowed them to fulfill their promises and perform to their highest potential. He committed himself 100 percent to any mission he embarked upon. He believed in building alliances and relationships that allowed views from all sides of an issue to reach a positive outcome. Stan was a mentor to hundreds of employees, coworkers and industry officials and was an amazing man that changed lives and provided direction to all he encountered.

Surviving are his wife of 49 years, Mary Helen Stephens; daughters Carrie Nash and family of Fairbanks, Jenna Stephens and family of Seattle, Wash. and Colleen Stephens and family of Valdez.

Following the 3:00 p.m. dedication of the Stan Stephens Harbor Plaza (located near the Best Western in Valdez) on Oct. 4, a celebration of life and reception will be held at the Valdez Civic Center at 4:15 p.m. Celebrations will also be held in Fairbanks on Oct. 18, and in Anchorage on Oct. 19. Time and locations will be announced at a later date. More information, memory sharing and updates can be found at

In lieu of flowers, donations can be directed to the Prince William Sound Science Center, or North Gulf Oceanic Society, 3430 Main Street, Suite B1, Homer, AK 99603.


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