Ballard teacher lived
passion in life and work
By Dean Wong
Family, friends, students and school staff are mourning over the death of Steve Molnes over the Labor Day weekend. A large, standing room only crowd numbering in the hundreds attended a memorial service in Ballard on Sept. 17 to remember Molnes.
Jan Bartlett, Molnes girlfriend who also teaches at Ballard High wrote a statement and had a friend read it at the service.
"I was fortunate enough and honored to be his sweetheart and confidante for the past several years I may know more about how he felt about life and his loved ones more than anyone. So let me share with you all his secrets," said Bartlett.
"First and foremost, Steve Karsten Molnes loved his mother, Bernice, more than anyone on this earth. Next he loved his little sister Mary and brother Danny and sister Carol beyond belief. But day to day he lived for his most treasured nephews, Eric and Alex," said Bartlett.
Molnes was preceded in death by his father Karsten and sister Nancy.
Friends described Molnes as going out of his way to help students and living life to its fullest, climbing mountains, playing the guitar and snow skiing. Students with learning disabilities were taken under Molnes wings as he helped them make it through school and find work in the community.
Laurie Turay's son, Tayor has dyslexia and he found Molnes to be caring.
"He was never too busy to help," said Laurie Turay. "He made an impact. My son thought he was the best teacher ever. He is sad to not have him as a teacher," said Turay.
Molnes, age 52, was born and raised in Ballard and graduated from Ballard High School in 1977.
Most students and school staff only knew of Molnes from his work as a teacher.
Friends recall him as a writer, athlete and musician who enjoyed playing the blues guitar.
"He loved nature. He climbed Mt. Rainier at the age of 15. He climbed it 17 times. He was in great shape," said Brent McMillan, who flew in from Washington D.C. for the service.
"This is one of those guys who takes a problem student and gets them interested in school. He was a great special education teacher," said McMillan.
Pete Kinney, an employee of the Ballard News-Tribune, was another close friend. He described Molnes as a "brilliant, charming, funnier than heck. The nicest guy I've ever met," he said.
Molnes had recently came back from visiting Disneyland with his family where he encouraged them to ride the roller coasters said Kinney.
On the way home, they sang the song "Zippity Do Dah," in the car.
At the memorial, nephew Eric played that song on a saxophone and the people gave him rousing standing ovation.
"It was what Steve would have wanted to happen," said Kinney.
"He was a nice guy, sensitive to the students needs to get them through school," said Ballard High school Principal Phil Brockman.
Molnes had been known to give students lunch money if they needed it. He's goes out of his way to give them an extra push to keep students interested in school said Brockman.
Teaching special education takes a special kind of teacher and Molnes fit that bill. "You have to be sensitive and patient. They're a tough group but nice kids," said Brockman.
"He loved the work he did. He was absolutely and totally dedicated and excellent at his job. Every time you talked to him he was passionate about it. He believed in the goodness of people and he lead the way," said Kinney.
Molnes got involved in issues that were important to him. In October 2002, he led a group of teachers at Ballard to sign a petition expressing no confidence in former Seattle School Superintendent Joseph Olchefske.
This past June, Molnes helped organize a memorial for Marine Corps Lance Corporal Daniel Chavez, a member of the Ballard High School Class of 2003 who was killed in Iraq.
"He was a remarkable man. It devastated the whole school. He was an advocate for all of us," said Jennifer Kennard, Molnes friend of 27 years.
"I feel fortunate to have known him. He was a good man and we all miss him," said McMillan.
"He believed in the goodness of people and he led the way," said Kinney.
A "Mr. Molnes Helping Hand Fund," funded by the Steve Karsten Molnes Endowment has been started to assist special education students, grades 9 through 12 in Individual Education Programs.
Monies raised will pay for lab fees, field trips, vocational class requirements, senior project supplies and student activities.
Contributions are welcome and are tax deductible. Make checks payable to: AFE/BHS Molnes Fund and send to Alliance for Education, 509 Olive Way, Ste. 500, Seattle, WA 98101. For credit cards, call 343-0449.