Living Life the Steve Elkins Way
The smiles and tears were not dampened by the threatening rain, as people from all walks of life gathered to honor a man who lived life to its fullest. The new walkway that connects Second Street to the parking lot of the Convention Center now has a name: Steve Elkins Way was dedicated on May 4, and those who spoke had messages of hope and encouragement to carry on the vision that Steve lived every day.
The usual suspects took the microphone and shared their memories of Steve, along with their thoughts on how we, in his absence, can follow the pathway he pioneered. It was noted that despite all the divisive debates and bills on which the Rehoboth Beach Town Council deliberates, the motion to name this path “Steve Elkins Way” passed unanimously. Such is the impact that one man can make in local politics—indeed, the impact that one man HAS made.
State Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf shared the history of Steve working in partnership with him to pass legislation favorable to the LGBTQ community. “And I learned It’s not enough to support [LGBT] people’s rights. You have to fight for them,” Pete said. Such is the legacy that Steve leaves: the fight for equality, the fight for acceptance, the fight for a place in this community and in this world.
Schwartzkopf used a metaphor that became the theme of the day. He referred to Steve Elkins as a carpenter. After making the disclaimer that Steve never picked up a hammer (at which point Murray Archibald rolled his eyes in agreement), he stated, “[Steve] built relationships. Relationships with the town of Rehoboth Beach, with the police department, with the fire department.” It was this practice of being a builder of connections that made the dedication of Steve Elkins Way so fitting, as it serves as a connection between Baltimore Avenue and the Convention Center.
No tribute to Steve Elkins would be complete without the insight and humor of Fay Jacobs. In a rare moment of serious reflection, Fay stated, “It’s very likely that most of us would not even be living in, visiting, or enjoying this community if it were not for Steve Elkins….He brought us safety, freedom, amusement, respect, pride, friendship, legal protections, visibility, and an overall feeling of well-being that we cannot even estimate.”
Not everyone whose lives were touched by the compassion and engagement of Steve Elkins was able to attend this ceremony. Former pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church, the Rev. Jonathan Baker and his wife, Donna, now residing in Florida, shared some memories and insights into the man who was a leader in both the church and the community. Asked to describe Steve in three words, Jonathan replied, “Bridge-builder, prophet, grace-filled.” Donna added, “Gentle, trusting, caring.”
When asked about Steve’s leadership and vision for a better Rehoboth, Jonathan replied without reservation, “I first met Steve at a World AIDS Day candlelight walk in Rehoboth Beach where he and Murray invited everyone to participate. I quickly saw he was filled with God’s spirit of unity as he related to everyone who attended from various faiths, sexual orientations, races, cultures, and genders. I’ll never forget watching him, in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘punching a hole in the darkness’ with his life and candle, inviting us all to join him to bring light into the darkness of our world filled with hatred and fear. Steve also was passionate for justice and knew how to work with people in positions of power to listen to others—thus the bridge-builder extraordinaire!”
At the dedication of Steve Elkins Way, Schwartzkopf mentioned a partnership that will always be in evidence. “It’s not just Steve. It’s Steve-slash-Murray.” Murray later underscored that special relationship that continues despite Steve’s absence. Steve/Murray. You cannot have one without the other. As Donna Baker noted, “They were such a beautiful couple! I was always in awe of their anniversary celebration, which became known as Sundance, where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised over the years.” Jonathan added, “Steve was a visionary and upfront person with charisma while Murray was often the one who paid attention to detail and helped Steve process things from different perspectives. The way they complemented one another’s gifts was amazing to watch—both [of them] extraordinarily gifted and talented people who were committed to the betterment of others.”
As we walk across town in Rehoboth Beach over the coming months and years, raise your hands, and perhaps your glass, to Steve Elkins on his Way. It is a much better way than others we have trod. Steve has led the way; we follow in his footsteps and trust that someone will help us blaze new trails.▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter.