From Afar the Bullet Holes Look Like Lace [R.I.P. Steve Toms, friend, teacher, mentor, smart aleck]

by Charlotte on October 30, 2012 · 170 comments

This picture cracks me up. It’s from a Shape photoshoot and Steve and I both hated it – I thought my thighs looked fat, he thought he had a double chin – but of course this ended up being the one they used as the lead pic on the story. We had a lot of laughs about this one. Also, that water bottle isn’t mine. He grabbed it from some random person in the gym. I’m trying desperately not to laugh. This is how I’ll always remember him: kicking my butt and making me laugh.

I honestly don’t know if I can write this post. I feel so much pressure because I’m a writer and I should be able to say something amazing or profound or… whatever. Especially because he deserves an amazing tribute. But I’m so gutted with grief I can’t think. I’ve never lost anyone this close to me in this way before. Of course I was absolutely heartbroken when my beloved grandparents, my sister and my baby died (not all at the same time – my life is not a Jonathan Franzen novel yet) but those were all expected in their own way, albeit wrenching. But this? This is so shocking, so nonsensical, so devoid of answers (Why? How? When? WHY??), I can’t grasp it. My friend Dr. Jon said there is a thing aptly called SADS, like SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), but meant to describe when a young, perfectly healthy adult just… dies. He died. My friend is dead. I can’t grasp it. I can’t stop crying.

The pain is in all the little holes he left in my life, puncturing my immediate future like buckshot, letting the water run out of my hands, my ears, my eyes. I can’t hold it in.

Steve Toms’ death is a tragedy for the big holes he left. His beautiful young wife left to celebrate alone their one-year wedding anniversary in two weeks. His sweet son who looks just like him but will have no living memories of his dad. His terminally ill mother, whom he moved here to take care of, thinking he would walk her through death but instead went through that door first, the way no child ever should. The fact that he is – was (I can’t stop talking about him in the present tense! I can’t grasp this.) just 35 years old. The fact that he was one of the healthiest people I know. Knew.

But I think Steve’s death is so personally jarring because of how present he was in my life. I saw Steve or talked to him nearly every day. It began because he was my liaison to Lifetime Fitness when I first started working with them but it quickly evolved because of who Steve is – he has (had!) a great talent for connecting all kinds of people, bringing us together in seemingly random patterns that ended up benefiting everyone. He was my personal trainer, interviewee, mentor, teacher, collaborator and even once (in a pinch and under much duress) a fitness model for one of my articles. But most of all he was a friend. To be clear, I make no special claim on his friendship. He was this way with everyone: open, funny, generous, direct, and a wee bit sarcastic when the occasion called for it. Ironically it’s because of all the little ways that he helped me that this hurts so much. I’m told that buckshot may be small going in but the exit wound is horrible.

A small hole: Other than my husband, Steve was the last person I talked to last night. It was nothing substantial, we were setting up a time to meet to coordinate our various projects. Then he told me he had to go get some chicken and deliver it somewhere else. I joked that he was going to pick up chicks. I laughed. I think he did too. But the last thing I read before I went to bed last night was “Okay, see you tomorrow.” Tomorrow only came for one of us.

A small hole: The first thing I read when I was awoken at 6:25 this morning was a text from Steve’s cellphone telling me that he, inexplicably, was dead. (Why? How? When? WHY??) It was his sweet sister-in-law going through his phone, letting me know our 9:30 meeting was off.

A small hole: The alarm chime on my phone dinged promptly at 9:20, reminding me not to be late. I have a dozen such appointments placed weeks ago in my calendar, landmines, waiting to remind me not to be late. Waiting to remind me he’s still dead. I can’t bring myself to delete them.

A small hole: I reached into my purse to get my keys and out fell a neatly folded magazine clipping, a report of a study about the detrimental effects of intensive endurance cardio on the heart muscle. Put there because I was going to give it to him at our meeting to help him with research for a book he was writing and I was helping him with. I put it back in my purse.

A small hole: He wrote me this: “You have no idea how inspiring you have been to get my butt in gear, to make an impact on the world. I will always help you in any way I can.” He was always, always looking for ways to help people. And I didn’t realize how much I have come to depend on his help until it suddenly was gone. I was trying to help him too. I still have a copy of his book proposal on my hard drive. Do I have enough pieces to put it together?

A small hole: I had to make a call to coordinate an interview/photoshoot. And then I realized Steve was the one with her phone number. And that even if I had her number, she likely had not yet been told about his death. And that even if I had her number, was able to call her and spoke with her, I didn’t want to be the one who told her about his death. And then I realized if Steve were here he’d be laughing his butt off, the way he usually did when I over-analyze things and get all control-freaky about my job. He probably would have made me do jumping pull-ups to burn off my nervous energy. I hate jumping pull-ups.

A small hole: I was sitting next to him at his beautiful, smart, talented wife’s bodybuilding competition (reporting on it for Shape, natch) and when she came in second place, I noticed tears – just a few. At first I thought he was crying because, as her trainer, he was upset she didn’t win. No, he told me later, it was because he knew how disappointed she would be and since she never cried for herself, he did. I don’t know if she knew he cried for her that night. In that moment, when she stood with her smile never wavering, shining alone in her perfect circle of light, she wasn’t really alone.

A small hole: One day he asked me why I so intense with my exercise. I answered “Because I was hurt once and I never want to be weak again.” He answered me, “Being hurt doesn’t mean you were weak.” (He was famous for his terse answers. Once I ran into him with my toddler daughter who was dressed like a hobo. “She dresses herself,” I shrugged, by way of explanation. “So do you,” he shrugged right back at me.)

I feel like a jerk, making his death all about me. But what we know is so limited:

- Sometime between the folds of dark and dawn, in the space between one breath and the next, he died.

- His wife found him, already gone.

- No one knows why. (Why? When? How? WHY??)

Did it hurt? Did he even know it was happening? Did his mother feel it, the way I think I would, as that last ghostly strand of umbilicus severed? Did he whisper his son’s name? Did his soul rejoice to meet his Savior whom he so deeply loves and served so well or was he momentarily caught, watching his beautiful wife, shining alone in her perfect circle of light, as she cried the tears for him he could not cry for himself? These are questions I can’t ask. I can’t grasp it. And so I talk about myself.

Steve didn’t make our meeting. From afar, all the tiny holes look like lace.

Rest in peace, my friend Steve Toms. It was my great privilege to know you in this life and I hope to meet you again in the hereafter. As long as you don’t make me do jumping pull-ups. 

And to those of you who stuck with me and read this far, I am deeply grateful. Thank you for letting me talk. Your generosity of spirit, your empathy, your forgiveness, your patience. That is a gift to me today.

This. I wish we all could go back to this point. Press pause.

He was way more worried about his plyo box getting damaged than me;)

What he was actually saying was “If you pee, I’m going to rub your nose in it.” Which made me laugh so hard I almost did pee.

 

{ 162 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle October 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Your words are very touching and I so appreciate what you’ve written. I had heard something “happened” to steve and your website was the only thing I could find in my search, it’s late at night and I didn’t have anyone to call to ask about him and I couldnt sleep wondering… I only knew steve a bit from a short stint as my trainer but would see him in passing at the gym and he always remembered me, and usually made a smart remark. I’m sad to find out what happened and he will be greatly missed but your words made me laugh and cry…thank you. If I had to find out, I’m glad it was through your story.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:12 am

Thank you Michelle – this comment alone makes me glad I wrote this! I’m so glad I could help you in your own grieving, in a small way. Thank you for taking the time to tell me this.

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Emmy Singer October 31, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thank you do much for sharing, what a beautiful tribute to Steve.
As a trainer myself I know how much you grow to love your clients like your children. Lot of love in this message to Steve

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Angela October 30, 2012 at 11:38 pm

It’s beautiful, Charlotte. Anyone would be proud to have this written about them. And it IS all about the ones left behind, as those who have gone forward don’t have the concerns we do anymore.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:29 am

Thank you Angela – both for the reminder and the kind words:)

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Sheila Tangren October 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I am grieving for you, not like you, but for you. I went to High School with Steve and have to say, never knew him like you. Your connection was deep with him and all I can say is: hold deep to that and know that you are one of the ‘lucky ones’. ‘Lucky ones’ to know him like you did, truly know him. ‘Lucky ones’ to know that you had the impact on his life like you did. Know that every person is put here for some reason, and as minimal and unimportant as it may seem right now… you had a part in creating Steve, his life, his world, the person he IS, WAS and WILL be. He may no longer be here with us in the physical world, but he has given us all a gift…the gift of knowing him. May you find peace and comfort knowing that you have something that no one can EVER take away… the most amazing memories! Deepest condolences to you!

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:15 am

Thank you Sheila – both for your kind (and eloquent) words and for taking the time to read this. From what I understand Steve used to be really different. He told me a couple of years ago he had a come-to-Jesus moment and radically changed the way he lived his life. I didn’t know him before that so it’s good to hear from those of you who did. I only knew a small snapshot of what was clearly a very complex person:)

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Amy October 30, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Wow, I didn’t even know the guy but your words are definitely a beautiful tribute to his life and impact.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:16 am

Thank you Amy!

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Pubsgal October 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Oh, Charlotte. (((hug))) I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. You wrote a lovely tribute, and he sounded like an amazing person. You & his family & other friends are in my thoughts and prayers.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:17 am

Thank you Pubsgal! I’m sure his family appreciates every prayer and thought:)

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Melissa October 31, 2012 at 12:10 am

Oh Charlotte, I’m so very sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend. I can only imagine the grief and shock you are going through. Your post was beautifully written, and even though I never knew him, I can tell he was a wonderful man who made the world a little better in his relatively short life. I’ll be praying for peace and healing for you and all the loved ones that are grieving for him.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:18 am

Thank you Melissa! He was a wonderful man. I appreciate the prayers!!

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sara-hare October 31, 2012 at 12:27 am

Oh no, so sorry to hear this, Charlotte. Just wanted to say your post is beautiful, and not all about you – I got a much stronger sense of who he was through his impact on you than I would if you’d just written that he was an awesome person whom everybody liked. I hope his soul rests in peace.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:18 am

Thank you Sara! I’m so glad you could get a sense of him – that was my whole goal.

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Claire October 31, 2012 at 12:48 am

Stop worrying about your writing ok? I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face for a man I never met and his family. They will be in my thoughts and prayers.
As for you, my dear, *hugs* let it all out & remember all the laughs you had together.
RIP Steve.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:19 am

Haha, okay. Thank you Claire! I appreciate your kind words

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Kari October 31, 2012 at 8:57 am

I agree. I didn’t know him, a friend posted this article. I’m so moved by your words.
I have lost someone quickly and slowly, it’s hard to explain the loss. You have done it beautifully!

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Thank you Kari – that means a lot to me!

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Amber October 31, 2012 at 4:38 am

Beautiful, Charlotte. Hugs to you.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Thank you Amber!

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Kat @ Balance & Spice October 31, 2012 at 4:44 am

We’ve never met or spoken, but I feel such sadness for your loss. Your words are beautiful and touching. He sounds like an incredible man, and I am sure shone such a light on the world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and love for him with us.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thank you Kat- light is the perfect descriptor for him:)

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Jess October 31, 2012 at 5:03 am

I’m so sorry to you, his family and the world for his loss. So young. I wish I could give you answers or bring him back. He is somewhere much more beautiful then this earth, xxx

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:23 am

Very true. And I’m sure he is happy there. He was ready.

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Sigi October 31, 2012 at 5:23 am

Oh Charlotte, that was a very moving tribute. Now I’m crying for someone I sadly never got to meet, not to mention his dear family. Hugs.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:24 am

Ah thank you Sigi! I appreciate your sympathy.

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Cathy October 31, 2012 at 6:13 am

Oh…Charlotte. I am sobbing as I type this and I had never heard of Steve before last night. My heart aches for you. And his bride. And his son. And all of the people he inevitably touched.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

Thank you Cathy – death is a heartbreakingly universal experience. I appreciate your sympathy!

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Renee October 31, 2012 at 6:19 am

The greatest compliment to someone who has passed, is to live your life and keep their memory alive.
((((Hugs)))))
I am sorry for your loss, Charlotte

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

I agree – thank you Renee!

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Abby October 31, 2012 at 6:22 am

I’m so sorry, my friend. Sometimes there are a million questions and exactly negative 300 answers. I have nothing wise and comforting to say, other than I was sad when I read this–mostly because of your pain–but also jealous. It sounds like you had the pleasure of knowing and incredible person, a human being that everyone should have had the chance to know, and that he touched so many lives. Everyone should be so lucky to have had that opportunity.

My thoughts are with you, his family and everyone touched by this untimely death. Take comfort in your memories, my friend, and thank you for letting us “know” him through this tribute. XOXO

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thank you Abby – as always, your comment made me smile! I am lucky. In so many ways.

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Kara from Mama Sweat October 31, 2012 at 6:25 am

So hard to comprehend. Thinking of you Charlotte, his wife, his son, his mother… it’s awful.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thank you Kara – did you ever get to meet him?

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Sara October 31, 2012 at 6:25 am

Charlotte – thank you for writing this. It’s 4am and I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. My heart aches for you, for his wife & son, his mother, all those that have been impacted by his goodness. Grieving is such a personal journey through trying to figure out the “why” – so don’t concern yourself about others thinking this is about “me, me, me.” Love you.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:27 am

Thank you for the sympathy and the reminder Sara! I love you too! I wish you were here in person so I could cry on your shoulder:)

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Naomi/Dragonmamma October 31, 2012 at 6:50 am

So sorry. It happens to everyone, of course, but not in such an unexpected, shocking way. Dang. You and your gym buddies need to give each other extra hugs today, and maybe even some extra burpees to help you cope; he sounds like the kind of guy who would approve.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:28 am

Hahah- yes, Bosu burpees! I think I will do some today in his honor. Thank you Naomi!

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Crecia October 31, 2012 at 7:13 am

This is a beautiful tribute to a clearly special man. It moved me to tears, but also to laughter and joy at parts of your descriptions. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:28 am

Thank you Crecia!

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Stephanie October 31, 2012 at 7:38 am

You don’t know me…but your writing makes me feel like I know you. Many days you have me laughing. Today I want to cry…your eloquent tribute to Steve made me want to know him too.
I am SO sorry for your loss, but so grateful that you and his family have the comfort of knowing his life was well-lived.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Thank you Stephanie – both for taking the time to read this and for your sympathy!

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Cassie October 31, 2012 at 7:42 am

(((Hugs))) great article Charlotte! Steve was one in a million and will be missed tramensly. your article was exactly what we all needed to hear…Steve and all his wonderful qualities. He has touched so many people. We will never forget him!

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Thank you Cassie – I agree:)

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the Bag Lady October 31, 2012 at 7:46 am

Deepest condolences to you and Steve’s family. You’ve written a wonderful tribute to your friend. It sounds as though his passing will leave a hole in many lives.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Thank you Terri:)

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Cbuffy October 31, 2012 at 7:51 am

As usual, your writing has brought life and light to a tough subject. Steve sounds like the kind of person we could ALL benefit by knowing and emulating. Thank you for sharing him with us. Prayers for his family and all the lives he touched.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Thank you – both for reading and your sympathy:)

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JavaChick October 31, 2012 at 7:56 am

I am so sorry for your loss Charlotte, and my heart goes out to his family.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Thank you JavaChick:)

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Krista B October 31, 2012 at 8:14 am

Thank you for your post Charlotte. I too went to high school with Steve and even though I was a couple of years ahead of him, we were in a couple of classes together and usually spent our class time teasing each other back and forth. His smile and his laugh were worth getting scolded for by the teacher. It’s such a great loss for you who knew him so well now and for all of us who knew him back then. Beautiful tribute.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Thank you Krista – and that you for sharing your memory of him as well:)

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Leslie Goldman October 31, 2012 at 8:39 am

I am so, so sorry Charlotte. You wrote a gorgeous tribute for a man who sounds like he was fantastic and beautiful in and out. Thinking of you and hugging my husband tighter when he gets home.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Thank you Leslie – and I am holding mine a little tighter too:)

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kristy October 31, 2012 at 8:47 am

That was beautiful, I feel like I knew him. I am so sorry for this huge loss to all who loved him. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Thank you Kristy

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Kellyim October 31, 2012 at 8:58 am

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your beautiful words honoring your friend.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Thank you Kellyim

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Cort the Sport October 31, 2012 at 9:58 am

I am so SO so sorry. You didn’t make it about you, rather you showed how intertwined lives get with those close to us and how many holes they leave behind. You will probably discover more :-( What a loss for everyone around him.

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm

True, I’m already finding them. Funny how you never realize how much someone is in your life until they’re not…

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Erin October 31, 2012 at 10:07 am

This was beautiful, Charolette. Thank you!

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Thank you Erin:)

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Liz October 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

Charlotte,

Thank you so much for your wonderful posting of Steve! He was a such a character and I could hear his voice coming in clearly from you words. He was a guy of great committment to his family, clients and his faith! He is leaving behind a great legacy, and I really hope that you can finish your book!!! Our church has never seen someone like Steve before, he did everything 100%, it is a goal that I struggle with every day! I think that his example is both an inspiration and goal that others should seek to reach their goals and NEVER give up! You clearly had the priviledge of knowing him better than I, and so I offer my condolences to you and his beautiful family!

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Charlotte October 31, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Thank you Liz – he spoke often and highly of your church and the people in it! Thank you for sharing your memories of him too:)

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Marie October 31, 2012 at 10:40 am

Thank you Charolette for writing this article about Steve. You described him perfectly and I’m sure this was not an easy one to put together. It was so nice to meet you through him and I will miss the group laugh-outs (I mean workouts) ! What an incredible man Steve was! The holes he left behind will be difficult to heal and he will be and already is so missed. I pray for his family and friends that we all get through this. Your article is one step as the parts about him put a smile on my face. Thank you!

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Charlotte November 1, 2012 at 7:41 am

I miss you too Marie! I hope I’ll see you at the gym still:) So so glad this made you smile

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Happier Heather October 31, 2012 at 11:04 am

Charlotte, I am so, so sorry for your loss. Although I never met Steve, I wish I had. I feel like I’ve had a glimpse of his personality from not only you, but from my Pastor’s book.

Pastor Rob Ketterling of River Valley Church in Apple Valley, was also a friend and trainee of Steve’s. In his book, Change Before You Have To, he talks about how much Steve helped him make changes in his life. He even talked about Steve in his sermon last weekend.

It’s crazy just how small this world is. My heart breaks for Steve’s friends and family. He sounds like a wonderful person who touched many, many lives. Prayers to his friends and family.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:40 am

You go to River Valley church too?? Small world! I finally got to meet Pastor Rob at the funeral. He seems like an amazing guy and I can see why Steve and Ash love him so much! I love the title of his book:)

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Jessica Barker October 31, 2012 at 11:18 am

Your post is beautiful and is a great tribute to Steve. We have never met, but I went to college with Steve and remember his smile and awesome attitude like it was yesterday. :)

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:48 am

Thank you Jessica – this means a lot to me!

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Donald Piotrowski October 31, 2012 at 11:37 am

Amazingly touching…. I loved your tribute to Steve.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:49 am

Thank you Donald.

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Nathan Schrom October 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

I went to school and never knew him like u did on this level. You paid such a great tribute to the memory of a great man! He reached out to me a few months ago and was helping me out with my own weight problems. The man never judge anyone, and was always wanting to help. I shall live a better life from here on out. He was taken for no reason. Maybe never will be answered, but Heaven has one special angel now. Thank u for the great article, and thoughts and prayers go out to u and his family in such a hard time!

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:50 am

This is so true – he loved helping people. Thank you for sharing your memories of Steve, Nathan and best of luck with your journey from here:)

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Jessica Raschka October 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

Charlotte,..big his to you, this is a beautiful tribute. I didn’t even know him but cried reading it. All I can say is you did a beautiful job! Hugs!!

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:51 am

Thanks Jess – I know you understand what this is like:)

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Jill October 31, 2012 at 11:52 am

I’m so sorry Charlotte. I didn’t know him, but after reading your piece here, I feel like I would have been glad to know him. This was a sweet tribute to him. (((hugs)))

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:52 am

Thank you Jill!

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Ashley October 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm

What a touching article, I’m so sorry for your loss and the loss of Steve’s family and friends. Your words moved me to tears and helped me motivate myself to go for a grueling 16 mile run in the freezing rain. Thank you for that.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:52 am

Thank you Ashley!

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Dayna October 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Dear Charlotte,

Please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend. Steve sounds like a great guy and is gone way too soon. My condolences also to Steve’s, wife, mother, son and the rest of his family. I’m sure they are feeling like there’s a big hole in their existence.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:54 am

Thank you Dayna – this is much appreciated!

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Geosomin October 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Wow Charlotte. I’m so very sorry you lost your friend. I am so very glad he was the sort of man to be so kindly and wonderfully remembered.
Take care of yourself OK?

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:55 am

Thanks lady – I’m trying:)

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Azusmom October 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I’m so, so sorry! I wish I had words to ease the pain. ((Hugs))

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:56 am

Thanks Alyssa – I know you understand this:)

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Meghan@themeghamix October 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Charlotte – so sorry to hear about this devastating loss. Death is such an awful thing, and a shock like losing someone young and healthy makes it even harder to bear.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 6:57 am

Thank you Meghan both for reading this and for your sympathy:)

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Angie October 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Charlotte,
I did not know Steve, but was a part of the “Life Time Family” for several years. Your story is a true testament to the beliefs and heart of those of that family and how they connect to anyone. I thank you and appreciate you for sharing your love and personal inspirations.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:01 am

Thank you Angie – I appreciate you reading this and your sympathy! The “Lifetime family” seems so tight, it’s an amazing thing:)

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Tom Parsons October 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thank You for the great article. I am out of the country and saw something on facebook about Steve dying. I had hoped it was a Holloween prank, setting up a Zombie Steve for tonight. Your article makes it all to real. Thank you for your wonderful article.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

I had wondered too if it were a prank, at first. Sadly it’s not. Thank you for reading this and for your support!

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Marcella Watkins October 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Dear Charlotte,

My husband considered Steve his best friend. Their frienship goes back to the times when they were both single and has grown into a deeper bond later on when they both became parents. We currently are in Mexico City and Steve was planning with my husband our return to the States. We thought it would be great if we went to Minnesota, have our kids grow up together and ……. so many more things. It is with great sadness that we went through our day yesterday. My husband has shed a lot of tears in the midst of telling me Steve´s stories. I only met him once but was grateful for his help and really looking forward to living closeby, working with him and spending time with him and his family. This will have to wait until we meet in Heaven. In the meantime, we will remember him and honor his memory by keeping him close to our hearts and sharing how wonderful, special and caring he was to everyone. My deepest condolences to you, his family and the multitude of friends who love him and miss him. RIP, Steve.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:37 am

Oh Marcella – I am so so sorry for you and your husband. Thank you for your empathy and I hope your husband is doing okay with the shock of it all.

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Mike DeMora October 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Charlotte,

God Bless You. I have known Steve for many years. In fact, he was graciuos enough to have me at his house earlier this year to teach a fitness class for his staff. Often times he would credit me for his for training but I think he gave me more than I ever gave him. For Steve was a giver. He worked with me in Los Angeles for quite some time. We were at dinner a few years back when he got the call from home about his mother having some health concerns. He decided he should go home to Minnesota and be closer to his mom. He didnt know that when he got home he would meet the love of his life, his wife Ashley. I have never seen Steve so happy and in a better place than when I stayed with them earlier this year. His faith in God, family and community service had never been stronger and more pronounced then after he married Ashley. There are no explanations for some things in lifeand sometimes we shouldn’t even try to find them. Its hard, but we must try to take comfort that God had a different plan for him. Fortunately, he left a little piece of him behind with his son Jamison. i will never forget my friend Steve and just reading this lets me know that there will be many other who won’t forget him as well.

Take care and GOD bless….

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cardiogirl Cory October 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Love ya Mikey!

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:39 am

Wow, Mike!! I feel like I know, Steve talked about you that much:) And you’re right, he did indeed credit you with teaching him everything he knew! It sounds like you two had a wonderful partnership and friendship. If you read this – I need to ask a favor? Steve’s wife would like his book finished. Unfortunately I lack the necessary knowledge to fill in the technical gaps. Would you be willing to be interviewed to help fill that out? I can’t think of anyone better that you!! Thank you!

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Anna Larson October 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Thank you! Thank you for writing this, Thank you for sharing.
I didn’t know Steve. I heard about Steve through facebook friends. He obviously was loved by many. A light in this world that so many of us need. Lent to us from God for a short time.
I never met Steve, I never knew him. When you think your writing about yourself you are really writing about him. How he was a part of you, your life and who you are and that my dear is how he will live on. Through you I was able to see a glimpse of who he was/is. . . . He has left his physical body but he is still with you and his loved ones in spirit.
Sending my prayers to you, his family, his friends.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:40 am

Thank you Anna! I appreciate your kind words:)

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Chuck Gollop October 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Well-written, Charlotte. You and I once, and as Steve that introduced us. He spoke well of you. It will be odd around Lifetime without that smart-ass there. Thanks for putting this in words, and so well…

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Chuck Gollop November 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

Damn iPad. You and I met once, and it was through Steve. You get the rest…

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:41 am

Hahaha – this is awesome. And of course I remember you Chuck! It was so good to see you again at the visitation and I hope if you see me at Lifetime you’ll stop and say hi:)

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Chuck November 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

I will seek you out, like a moth to a flame….

Don’t stop coming in, though…!

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Caitlin October 31, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Charlotte, I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a tremendous man, and my heart goes out to you and everyone who knew him.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

Thank you Caitlin!

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Sarah October 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss. What a terrible tragedy. You and his friends and family are in my thoughts and prayers.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

Thanks Sarah:)

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Kate October 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I’m so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for your moving words about a man that I didn’t know, but who touched the lives of many.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

Thank you Kate:)

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cardiogirl Cory October 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Still not doing well, but I found this very very STEVE!!! I was in the Wedding Party and have been in fitness with Steve from the very start! PLEASE know these words HELP! You & I know Steve on the very same LEVEL! EXAMPLE …What he was actually saying was “If you pee, I’m going to rub your nose in it.” Which made me laugh so hard I almost did pee. I HAVE SO MANY examples of these STEVEO’S that I will remember & use myself FOREVER! Not even sure as I type if this makes sense…but it’s what my ONE FINGER TYPING is expressing….missed a few typing classes back in the day!

THANK YOU!!!

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:43 am

Thank you Cory! Reading your comment totally made me grin. And if any more “Steveo’s” come to mind – please send them to me! Ashley would like Steve’s book to be finished so now I’m in the process of collecting info for it!

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Connie Savage Thiewes October 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Charlotte, I met you in Kickbox Jam several times and knew you wrote a blog because of my daughter, Anna and her friend Jenni. I heard about this tragedy at Lifetime on Tuesday morning. I didn’t know Steve but still felt the sadness at the gym that morning.

This was a beautiful expression of life. I am so saddened knowing more about “the personal trainer that died,” but to read what you shared with Steve, makes him real. I wish I would have had the pleasure of knowing him as you did. People who care for others and share their day to day experiences in positive and humorous ways are truly treasures in this world.

It makes me appreciate the breath I have with those I know and cherish. My heart goes out to those who knew and shared his life. So wonderful to be missed for so many genuine attributes and spirit that you spread to those who knew you in your life.

My sympathies!

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

Of course I remember you Connie! And I know I already thanked you in the locker room for your sweet comment but I wanted to tell you again how much I appreciate you and your support!

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Jan G October 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm

What a beautiful tribute. You made many of us who never met him feel the world lost someone very special. So, so sorry for your loss and the grief his family, friends and loved ones must feel.

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Charlotte November 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

Thank you Jan!

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Adrienne October 31, 2012 at 7:10 pm

That was a very beautiful post, so sorry for your loss. Sending out good thoughts and prayers.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Thank you Adrienne!

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Jody - Fit at 54 October 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I am so so so sorry Charlotte!!!!! I did not know him but I certainly know the feeling of loss by death all too well….

HUGE HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Thank you Jody – I know you do!

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jennifer October 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm

This was a very touching post, Charlotte.. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend and I’m sending positive thoughts your way :(

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Thank Jennifer:)

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Katie November 1, 2012 at 12:34 am

This was yet another beautiful post, written from the heart, like everything you do. I am so sorry to hear of your loss, and words are never enough in these situations. I am thinking of you and sending you lots of good thoughts and vibes and whatever else I can “send”!

If nothing else, this tribute to a young man I never met has made me wish that I could have. That right there means a lot. You’ve introduced the world to a great man. He is great, present tense noted!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Thank you Katie! Both for the sympathy and your apt use of the present tense – it means a lot to me!

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Terri November 1, 2012 at 12:35 am

I am so sorry for your loss. Sudden, unexpected deaths of healthy young people have a special kind of pain to them, which unfortunately I understand all too well.

I really wish I could give you a hug. I’m so sorry for the pain and bewilderment you’re going through {{hugs}}

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Thank you Terri, they do indeed…

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shannon toms-gardner November 1, 2012 at 12:55 am

What an awesome way to remember Steve, thank you for a peek into your friendship. I love my cousin, only wish I knew him better.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Thank you Shannon! I’m so sorry for your loss in this as well.

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Mike November 1, 2012 at 5:26 am

Your post made me stop in the middle of my pitch black kitchen and read. As much for your words as the fact Ashley Toms sent it to me. That means everything.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Thank you Mike – and this comment means a lot to me:)

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Heather Thelen November 1, 2012 at 5:27 am

I cannot believe Steve is gone. So suddenly and quickly!! Your words and loving description of Steve is something to read and charish. Thank you for writing such a great tribute to a really special man. I will always remember– eat Protien every 3 hours!! from Steve. Take Care and see you at the gym!!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Thank you Heather – it was great to see you for a bit yesterday! It was an immense shock for all of us… And good for you for getting your protein in;)

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Tamara November 1, 2012 at 8:23 am

Dear Charlotte, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I’m thinking of you and Steve’s family. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, moving tribute to him, to life, to love, to mourning. Today you’ve made me feel extra lucky to know you, if only through these virtual ties that bind.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Thank you Tamara for this sweet comment – you totally made me smile:)

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kari roles November 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

Charlotte,
A friend liked your post and it was sent to my page…..I read what you wrote and your tribute was beautiful. ( I cant see my keyboard right now because I’m crying so much; excuse my typing because my hands are shaking.)
I am feeling everything you said about that man. When you wrote that you were gutted with grief, I lost it because thats how I’m going about my last days.
I met steve when he came up to me when i was working out and asked about my limp. He said he would fix me in less than a month. That was about 5 years ago. I then “needed” to train with him every few weeks since- He was my hero!
That man had an infectious smile, charm and energy that one couldn’t help but catch.
I had the privilege to watch him grow as a person,have a beautiful son, see him say “I DO” to the woman of his dreams and become the leader he is today (was today) and turning that club into a powerhouse he always envisioned it. God he loved his life!
So many other people have my story and yours. It is kind of a vent to type and say all this out loud in my own home so I can wipe tears and blow my running nose without anyone seeing.
Thank you for your words. I needed this to help me heal. I hope others will see it and try to find a place in themselves to keep Steve loved and cherished.
To Ashley and Jameson and his beloved family….I am so sorry for you all. He was a great person, a great friend to all, and a believer in God like no other.
Love you Super Steve!!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Thank YOU Kari – this comment has helped me immensely as well. It’s comforting to know so many people remember his joie de vivre!

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Gail November 1, 2012 at 10:07 am

Thank you for your wonderful expression of the holes that has been left with Steve’s passing. We all have our own holes left over from this sudden tragedy but to share them helps the healing process in some way, doesn’t it? I think it must. Anyway, I especially liked your comment about Steve being “open, funny, generous, direct, and a wee bit sarcastic when the occasion called for it”. I always counted on Steve to be slightly sarcastic when too much time passed that I didn’t show up at the gym. He would look puzzled and ask “What are you doing here”? as though the concept of me actually working out was hard to grasp :) Even when Steve was working with a client he was never too busy for a knucle bump and a smile. He made everyone feel like somebody. He was that bright light that we all wanted to be around, and is now emersed in the brightest light, the presence of his Savior! Thank you for the wonderful article….

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hahaha I love it! Steve had the best zingers. I never saw him at a loss for words;) And thank you for this beautiful comment – it’s comforting to know others remember Steve’s love for life!

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Mary Pat November 1, 2012 at 10:12 am

Charlotte, you may not remember me – I used to workout at the Y (Turbo with Jennie) until I switched to the Lakeville LT. One of my closest friends (Laurie F.) and her twin trained with Steve and so I had the opportunity to meet him several times. He always remembered me even though he had no real reason to. I had the opportunity to go to the fitness show his wife did and was struck by the admiration for her in his eyes. Your description of him at that show made me smile. This is a beautiful tribute to Steve, your friendship with him and your grieving process. I am thinking and praying for all that were touched by him.
Take care.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Thank you so much Mary Pat (and I do remember you!!) – both for reading this and for your sweet comment. I hope I see you at LTF!

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Amy November 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

Charlotte ~ these words are so beautiful…. A true gift to Steve…. There are no words to ease the pain that is so deep…. I will pray for all of you whom have loved Steve and have been touched by him and his love for life and others …. Praying to the only ONE whom can reach in those deep hurts at the steps of your souls… The GREAT I AM! Lifting you up from
Wisconsin … I pray you let Jesus touch your heart that hurts so deep!!!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Thank you Amy – I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers:)

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Rebecca November 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

This was beautiful, Charlotte-girl.

Praying for his wife and kidlet.

*hug*

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Thank Beck:)

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Victoria November 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I follow your blog but I have never commented before that tribute really touched me. It was beautiful. Made me reassess my day and and everything I was stressing about suddenly became unimportant. I am sorry for your loss.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Thank you Victoria! I’m so glad that it helped you in its own way as well:)

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Matt November 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

My heart and prayers go out to you tonight Charlotte. It’s always hard to lose a friend who has also been a teacher.

He played a part in shaping you into the teacher you are today for us all, and for that I thank him.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Thank you for this sweet comment Matt! I don’t know that I deserve it but it made me smile:)

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Aimee November 1, 2012 at 7:58 pm

I’m so sorry, Charlotte. Grief is the price we pay for love, and he clearly was someone who had a special place in your heart. I have you, his friends, and his family in my prayers. This is never easy, but the weight of it won’t always feel so crushing.

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Dorica Stu November 2, 2012 at 1:31 am

Wow, I am moved by your tribute to this guy. He really left a big impact on your life and he could have been proud to read this article. R.I.P Steve.

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Crista November 2, 2012 at 5:48 am

I am so so so sorry for your grief and for his family. There’s nothing really an outsider can say but I hope some sense gets made of this for you and for everyone he left behind. he clearly was a wonderful person.

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Mary Beth Manninen November 2, 2012 at 9:53 am

Charlotte:
As I’m getting ready for Steve’s funeral today, I felt compelled to read this story again. I understand every word, especially the unexplicable way he connected with people. He just had that gift and you’ve explained it beautifully. We were so lucky and blessed to have know him at all.

I will see you on floor and we will “do this” together. He would want and expect that from us.

Warmly,

Mary Beth Manninen

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melinda November 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Charlotte,
Gorgeous words of grief and celebration of a life incredibly well-lived. I no longer live in MN but when I did I was at LTF 4-5 days a week. I never had the honor to train with Steve but his face is so easily recognizable to me. He’s the one who was always smiling or laughing with friends or clients. His light shined so readily then and I pray it will from heaven above.

May we all learn from his life thanks to your beautiful tribute. May God hold you close in His loving arms as your wrestle with the shocking reality of profound loss. We’re reminded (again) at the brevity of this little life. All we have now and forever it is what is eternal. Here’s hoping I can remember that day after day.

Warmly,
Melinda

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Jill November 2, 2012 at 6:25 pm

So heartfelt and true. Thank you so much for writing the Steve that we all knew so well. I will miss him so much. When I met Steve four years ago, it was the sparkle in his eye that told me I was going to be okay. I wasn’t just there to workout, I needed to start over and he was the one to help me do that. His funeral today was one with laughter and tears; and while it’ll never be the same without him, what a legacy(!) he has left to so many of us.

A beautiful tribute. One that made me laugh, smile and cry. Huh. Just like Steve. :)

God Bless,
Jill

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Deb Preachuk November 5, 2012 at 9:33 am

Charlotte – Thank you for this incredible blog post about my friend Steve Toms. We were all blessed to have been touched by him in one way or another. For those of you who did not get the opportunity to know Steve, you still can.

Steve helped my Pastor at River Valley Church (Rob Ketterling) change before he had to. A book was published and Steve’s impact played a huge factor in the background story behind this book. The last sermon that Steve and his beautiful wife Ashley attended before he passed was about his impact on the book.

You can listen to the sermon on iTunes by visiting:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/change-before-you-have-to/id534686695?i=123281158&mt=2

And the book is available on Amazon by visiting:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=change+before+you+have+to

As Steve would say, Together we can change the world. Thank you again for posting this beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful man.

I’m just one who is grateful.

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Kelly November 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Thank you so much for writing this tribute, it was very touching. Steven, was my cousin and I know that when he got older he went by Steve but he will always be Steven to me. The funeral was amazing, I don’t know how one person could know that many people at such a young age. There was at least 800 to 1000 people at the service, with a line of cars going to the cemetery a mile long. It still feels like a dream and holidays will definitely not be the same with out him. I will always remember his laugh, which could sometime have a high pitch to it. It is crazy how you had wrote about what was going through his head and what he was feeling at that moment, I wonder the same thing. The one thing that still breaks my heart is his son, who will never remember his father, but he looks just like his father and Steven will live on through his son. We all need to stay strong for that little boy. Thank you very much sharing your memories and the good times. Our family has a lot of good memories to share with each other and get a good laugh.

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Liz November 6, 2012 at 9:35 am

I’m so sorry for your loss Charlotte. This is a beautiful tribute.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Thank you Meghan, both for reading and for the sympathy!

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Amy November 10, 2012 at 7:51 am

Charlotte!
I am so sorry for your loss.
People don’t often realize how important a good trainer is to you. My trainer had to step as side for awhile due to some personal family issues, and I felt like I had lost my brother. There truly is a bond of love between a (great) trainer and their clients. And I figured out why: I see my trainer one-on-one more often than I see anyone else besides my husband, kids, and immediate coworkers. He knows as much or more about me than most of my friends. He knows my competitive side and how to push me to work harder. He knows what pushes my buttons and makes me want to give up and knows how to encourage me through it. He knows what I weigh! (Even my husband doesn’t know that!). He has helped me understand why hitting milestones in my weight loss brings me to tears.
I feel your loss, Charlotte. And I am praying for healing.
Amy

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Teresa December 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Hi Charlotte,
I am not sure if you remember me from the Y in Burnsville but I remember watching how hard you pushed yourself and how hard you worked and I always wished I had the motivation to do the same. I heard the Wish on KDWB that Ashley received and now reading this, I never knew Steve but I have many friends who know him or Ashley and this is such a SAD thing. I just want you to know that you and everyone effected by Steves death are in my prayers, I know it has been a little over a month but it is still so new and shocking, still when I hear about it I cant believe it I was working at Red Oak the day after Steve passed and just the feeling at the school as everyone mourned for a friend I cant imagine how you feel or how you are doing.. But just know many people are there for you and dont be afraid to be angry or mad or happy or sad or whatever it needs to be. Again I am so sorry and thank you for being such an inspiration to many!

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Michele December 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Hi Charlotte,

Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute. Steve was a dear friend of mine, and I just found out about this tragedy this morning. My heart is heavy with grief. I met Steve when he moved to Minneapolis with his best friend, Erik, to go to Augsburg college. I hired them both to work with me at the health food store I was managing. I took them to Lifetime Fitness for their first time on guest passes I got for them. Eventually, they both moved in with me into a studio apartment when they decided to drop out of school and pursue fitness. We all took our personal training exams together, and a few months later, Steve and Erik moved into their own apartment across the hall from me. Eventually, when he and Erik left Minneapolis with Lifetime to help open new clubs, we lost touch. Unfortunately, Facebook and cellphones did not exist back then like they do today. Six years ago, I moved from Minneapolis to Dallas, TX, so even if they tried to find me, they probably couldn’t. Over the years, I have searched for them almost unrelentlessly, using people search, facebook, and online phone directories, to no avail. Then, a few years back, Experience Life magazine did an article on Steve, and mentioned that he was at a club in Utah. I called the club before I even put the magazine down. They said Steve had left very abruptly just a week earlier, and they had no information on where he had gone. I JUST missed him!!! Again, I searched online, but found nothing. Fast forward to today. For the past three weeks, Steve and Erik have been heavy on my mind. Maybe it’s because I started training back at Lifetime not that long ago. Maybe I was unconsciously connecting with his spirit. Who knows? But this morning at 5am, I decided to search Facebook again. I found Erik, and through his page I found Steve. I was ecstatic! I sent them both friend requests immediately. By the time I got to work at 9:30am, Erik had accepted my friend request and sent me a private message. This is when I learned about Steve’s passing…that I JUST missed him again. I’m not sure why things happen the way they do, but reading your lovely tribute made me smile from the memories he left on my heart.

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Amy Hook March 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Dear Charlotte,
I certainly hope you get this message. Life works in strange and cruel ways. I had a dream last about Steve. He was my trainer and dear friend when he lived in California. We met because I had lost 111 pounds and wanted to run the LA Marathon. I wanted to workout with a trainer to achieve that goal. Fate brought Steve and I together. I loved working out with him…we laughed, he kicked my butt, he ran with me on the beach, and we soon became good friends. He taught that I could run a 9 minute mile and was at the finish line for me when I completed the marathon. I Googled him today, because after the dream I had, I wanted to reconnect with him. I saw your article and thought surely it couldn’t be the same Steve Toms because “my Steve” was too young, fit, and vivacious to die. Now I sit here bawling realizing that “my Steve”, who helped me be the most confident me I’ve ever been, is gone. I’m sure he touched many people’s lives the way he touched mine. What a terrible terrible loss. My heart goes out to his wife and son. He was a great man.

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