Sweet and kind,creative free spirit with a zest for life
The most frequently used word to portray Steve was sweet. He was good natured, easygoing, kind hearted and compassionate. “One of the good ones,” as many described him. Steve loved nature, animals, music and anything active. “When he first got into skateboarding, that was his new passion”. his mom said. ‘He performed so many skilled tricks, I worried that he would kill himself on that thing.’ He looked forward to snow so he could go snowboarding and when it was festival weather, he could be found at music festivals across the country.
Steve was also a self proclaimed “Hop Head”, meaning he was a craft beer connoisseur, and knew many details about each beer. He had the same kind of knowledge about the IPhone – he was adept at the technology and was his mom’s ‘go to’ I.T. guy. He was an energetic drummer in local bands, which is part of how he earned his nickname “Skunk.” He got so hot on stage that he had fans on himself, but he still worked up a stinky sweat that his band mates poked fun at him about. Many people never knew his given name was Steve until he passed. His mother and his sister both have a skunk tattoo in memory and in honor of him.
Skunk was also known as the “bug guy” as he was an exterminator for area businesses for quite a few years. He put his love of learning into his work, amassing a lot of knowledge about bugs. He was the person everyone turned to with bug questions! “He was the type of guy who you immediately felt at ease with, like you knew him forever,” his mom said, ‘he connected with people and they were attracted to him.’
About 2014, things started going downhill for Steve due to some poor decisions. A failure to renew his car registration ended in losing his license, which he needed to drive the company vehicle. He was still hiding his addiction and thought he could control it, but it became worse. In time, Steve recognized his problem and moved to San Francisco to be helped by someone he knew in recovery. When it got too expensive to live in California, he went to Florida to live with his dad. In July 2016, he came back to Erie. His mom was happy to see him, but worried he would fall into old habits. Her fears were realized; he had two overdoses before the fatal one that took his life just seven months after his return. “Life as I knew it changed in an instant,” she said.
Steve was close to his niece, Nina and his nephew Gino, who carries the family stories and memories about Uncle Skunkie. Nina and Gino, along with other family members put together a quilt square at a local grief support center, depicting Skunk’s interests /involvement in boy scouts, bugs, craft beer, skateboarding, Pittsburgh Steelers and Snoopy. Steve loved Snoopy.
‘I speak about him as if he is still here, I want him to be remembered,” his mom said. She encourages people to paint rocks with one of Steve’s favorite tattoo on them – a treble clef with a semi colon underneath. On the reverse side, the rocks say: In Loving Memory of Steve Skunk Shaner. It is her way of having his memory out in the Universe. So far 38 states hold Skunk’s memory rocks, as well as Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Australia.
“I miss his happy, positive attitude; he was so optimistic, a ‘make lemonade out of lemons kind of person,’ his mom stated. “I am so much more emotional now; I can be in tears at the drop of a hat.. Child loss knocks you to your knees, over and over again.”
Skunk’s mother, Deborah Little, provided the information for this narrative.
May 3, 1985-February 19, 2017
Age 31-Lived with the disease of addiction 5+ years