Monday, August 5, 2013


From far left: Tina, Ronie, Steve, John (Pepi's husband) and Anita Celdran (back )
Thanksgiving Dinner
Steve Joel Ettinger lived life to the fullest.  Whatever institutional challenges – either artificial or natural, he conquered.


Academically, he garnered the highest degree that an educational institution can bestow – a Doctorate in a field that affects the daily life of every mortal being, Economics.

Politically, he mastered the art and science of administering public and government agencies as he worked with the governments of several developing countries on behalf of the World Bank.

Economically, his work as an Economist and Manager at the World Bank enabled him to pursue development projects that focused on poverty alleviation and full employment.

Socially, he has been described as a “do-gooder” having volunteered as a Treasurer of the New Futures, a scholarship fund for D.C. Youth; and serving as an active member of the Partnership for Transparency Fund – an international anti-corruption organization.  He and wife Ronie were also active supporters of the Movement for a Free Philippines in its fight against the Marcos dictatorship during the ‘70s and ‘80s.


Steve literally explored the earth.  On Land, he had been to 92 countries – more than the combined exploratory trips of Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus, and Amerigo Vespucci.

On Water, he paddled and canoed most of the rivers, creeks, and runs in Metropolitan, D.C. area.  In fact, his exploration on waters led him to a decade and a half of research and studies, culminating in a “paddling guidebook covering 372 whitewater rivers and creeks, from the mighty Potomac down to the smallest runnable tributary of a tributary, most of which have never been written up before.” (Capital Canoeing and Kayaking)

On Air, he had flown over the territorial skies of not only the 92 countries that he visited but also to many more on the way there.


Steve’s interest in sports was not limited to paddling, canoeing or kayaking.  He was also a cyclist who pedaled to work everyday from his home in Chevy Chase to the World Bank in Pennsylvania Ave., D.C.  His manual dexterity extended from paddling to Ping-Pong.  How his  Ping-Pong skills contributed to his visits to places like China can not be underestimated.

He dealt in Mental Gymnastics too.  I know that he was adept in the game of Chess – always a protagonist in the yearly Thanksgiving Dinner Chess tournament.  More importantly, he was always an active participant in the discussions and debates of the burning issues affecting the U.S., Philippines, and other countries.


Steve loved and was loved by his relatives either by affinity or by consanguinity.  I am a witness to his loving concern for them.   The affection from his only sister, Laura and his in-laws (mother-in-law Teresa Nieva, sisters Pepi and Lolet, and brother Bug) during the last days of his life were palpable.  Laura flew from Connecticut, Pepi from Oregon while Teresa, Lolet and Bug came all the way from the Philippines several days before Steve passed away.  


Steve is forever immortalized in a book that he authored.  The CAPITAL CANOEING AND KAYAKING (A Complete Guide To Whitewater Streams Within Two Hours of Washington, D.C.), which is a product of decades of research work and eloquent writing, will certainly place him in the halls of immortality.

But most significantly he is immortalized in his children.  Together with Ronie, he raised two outstanding boys who grew up to be men of wit and intelligence.  After stints in Costa Rica and Colombia, Jonathan just completed his Masters degree in International Development and will start a job at the World Bank.  Kenneth graduated from Brown University (Magna Cum Laude) and is now working at Grameen Foundation, which ”helps the world's poorest – especially women – improve their lives and escape poverty by providing them with access to appropriate financial services, life-changing information and unique income-generating opportunities.”

While they jokingly claim to have had a unique “Judeo-Christian-Atheistic” upbringing, they were certainly raised to be men of moral integrity – men who approach life’s challenges with humility, honesty, honor, and hope.  A do-gooder like their father, do evil and in them you earn a fierce enemy.  


On his 70th birthday, we witnessed a demonstration of the wit, wisdom and humor of Steve and his two sons.  But he reserved the serious stuff by quoting Ronie who told him in a reassuring and calm manner:

“Even when things look bad
There is no cause to be sad
Or to act like a cad
Remember, everyday is a gift”


Ronie and Tina’s families in the Philippines are very close. When Tina and I came to the United States, this close relationship got extended. So Steve and I inherited each other as friends.  Our joint annual Thanksgiving Dinner for decades brought our families closer together.  We witnessed the growth and maturing from childhood to adulthood of all our children.

Indeed, each day that we spent with Steve, Ronie, Jon, and Ken was a wonderful gift.  I am sure that all their numerous friends and relatives feel the same way.

Steve explored and conquered the earth.  With this feat, I am not surprised if he sings,  (paraphrasing Sinatra’s song)

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among those stars
Let me see what “Thanksgiving” is like
On Jupiter and Mars”

To which we respond using the words of William Wordsworth,

“Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind

Goodbye Steve!

1 comment:

  1. A most amazing and wonderful tribute to a life of a man that I barely know. But the short visit of Steve and Ronie family to Chateau Dumer in Boac Marinduque last January, 2013 reminded me of how he loved playing ping pong with sons, Jonathan and Kenneth. I will always remember Steve as that athletic man with no signs of the cancer that he has endured for quite some time. May you rest in Peace, Amen!