On Friday I lost my little sister, Selena, after a 3 year fight with ovarian cancer. Words can’t really express how much she impacted my life. She lived with tons of enthusiasm and a huge heart and gave the best hugs ever. She loved people fiercely and they returned the favor. I’ll miss you forever! I love you always! Thank you to everyone who has offered their support and loving words during this time. ❤️
Selena Adele Steinmetz was born in Portland, Oregon, on September 13, 1970 to Marvin Duane Steinmetz (deceased) and Janet Svarverud King. She passed away with loving family by her side at her parent’s home in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Selena was described by a friend as a “never give up kind of soul” who lived her life with determination and grace. She was born with a hearing loss that made life more challenging for her, but it never kept her from succeeding. In her early life she loved drama, music, dance, and swimming. Although she sometimes struggled with school and social situations, she later said that she’d always felt truly encouraged and accepted in the Unitarian Universalist church of her upbringing. She actively participated in UU churches all her life, even seeking out UU communities when she lived overseas.
As a child, Selena enjoyed exchanging letters with international pen pals in England, France, Spain, and Poland. She spent the summer following her high school graduation in 1988 visiting each of her pen pals and maintained friendships with them for the rest of her life.
Curious about far-flung cultures and how other people lived, she loved visiting her father and stepmother in Paris and she worked hard in the classroom to learn Spanish (eventually becoming fluent in the language). At age 16 she participated in the Amigos program, living with a family in Costa Rica for 8 weeks after selling boxes of grapefruit during 2 school years to finance her trip. That program, which focused on health-related work, and the time she’d spent as a candy-striper at Kaiser Hospital was the beginning of a life dedicated to service. She studied Anthropology at Lewis and Clark College, and spent a semester living with 2 families in Oaxaca and Guanajuato, Mexico. After graduation she went into the Peace Corps, serving as a health care worker in the Dominican Republic.
Upon leaving the Peace Corps, she enrolled in Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where she became proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). She earned a Masters Degree in Special Education with an emphasis on early intervention with Deaf and hard of hearing children. One of her passions was working with infants and children 0 to 5 years old and their parents. She worked at Governor Baxter School for the Deaf in Portland, ME, at Boston Children’s Hospital, at L.A. Unified School District, and Berkeley, CA, eventually returning to Oregon where she worked for the Willamette Education Service District before ending her career by serving U.S. military families as an early childhood special educator on bases in Japan and Germany.
Selena had a brilliant smile. With her glorious curls set off by a sassy hat, she was the picture of a woman with a zest for life. Her hobbies included dance and music, with special emphasis on African drumming and the music of Cuba. She also delighted in travel, where her diverse interests took her to China in 1999 with a group of Gallaudet students to learn how the Deaf were educated there, and later to Africa in 2009 to further her knowledge of drumming.
Selena displayed extraordinary courage, intelligence and love of learning in all she did. In her last years, she attended a UU sponsored book group that brought women in prison together with women from outside. She also traveled with her mother to Italy, France, Slovenia, Croatia, and Costa Rica. Determined to live fully up to the very end, it was her dream to go to Cuba with a Lewis and Clark alumni group in June, 2017 that would focus on Cuban culture, including music and dance.
Friends and family will miss her energy, her enthusiasm, her curiosity and her love.
Three years after diagnosis, Selena lost her courageous fight with metastatic ovarian cancer. She is survived by her mother and stepfather, Janet and Jim King, her stepmother Christine Blair, grandmother Elizabeth Steinmetz , and the siblings of her extended and blended family: Gillian Steinmetz-Blair, Bob King (Anne), Sandi Adams (John), and their children, as well as cousins, aunts and uncles and many special friends who dearly loved her.
Her memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Willamette Falls in Oregon City on August 4, 2017, at 2 p.m.