“I refuse to let my circumstances steal my joy.”
— Jarvis M. Stephens, March 13, 2012
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — When Bettye Dove thinks of her grandson, Jarvis Stephens, she is overwhelmed with a wide variety of emotions — everything from a sense of immense pride to a nearly debilitating sadness.
Stephens passed away one year ago Thursday after losing a lengthy battle against cancer at the age of 32. It was a loss that left a gaping hole not only in his biological family, but in his professional family as well.
“He was my heart,” said Dove as she talked about her grandson’s life — then his death. “I’ve missed him terribly, just as the rest of his family, co-workers and friends have this past year.”
Stephens was born in Lumberton, N.C., the son of Edgar and Kimberly Stephens; the maternal grandson to Billy and Bettye Dove of Bladenboro, N.C., and paternal grandson to Doris Ann Stephens of Southport, N.C.
After a few years in Robeson County, the family moved to Tennessee and, eventually, to Myrtle Beach.
If there was a single characteristic the young Jarvis Stephens was developing, it was charisma — and he soon used it to guide his professional path.
“Everyone he met liked him,” Bettey Dove said. ” I know I’m his grandmother, but that really is true.”
Stephens took a job with Starwood Vacations as a sales consultant in Myrtle Beach, and quickly established himself as one of the company’s top salesmen. According to John Rye, the company’s in-house sales manager, Stephens’ impact on those around him was nothing less than phenomenal.
“We never really know how much we touch people,” Rye said in a recent talk with company employees, “and I know that even Jarvis didn’t realize the impact of his actions.”
Rye said Stephens was almost always the first person at work and would often be seen reading a sales book — despite the fact that “he already had the talent (but) he always asked how to improve and get better.”
After Stephens’ death on March 2, 2016, Rye and the Starwood Vacations staff wanted to do something to honor Stephens’ memory. The initial idea of planting a tree fell apart when environmental regulations made it impossible, so Rye went to Plan B: establishing an annual company award named the Jarvis Stephens Award and given to the employee who makes the biggest difference — not necessarily as a sales person, but in life.
For Rye, the award was established to recognize the kind of all-around life Stephens lived. He said everyone has a birth year and resting year, but it’s those years that are part of “the dash” that make the real difference.
“(The dash) represents the life we live,” Rye told the employees recently. “Of all those I have been blessed to know on this earth, I am honored to stand here today and say that I know for sure, although Jarvis’ years were few, his life was full.”
Last month, at a special Starwood Vacations ceremony, the first Jarvis Stephens Award — which some have already dubbed “The Blue Award” — was presented to a co-worker of Stephens, Jim Clint Boazman.
“John Rye had the whole room in tears when he presented our first-ever Jarvis Stephens Award,” said Betty Billingsly in a Facebook comment. “Congratulations Clint Boazman.
“Kim Stephens, thank-you for Jarvis,” she added. “Though his time on Earth was brief, he affected others in a really, really special way.”
Another Facebook post, from Victoria Rieke, stated: “Jarvis would have been so humble and grateful … Clint, he loved his friends, especially you.”
There are numerous other posts applauding Boazman and remembering what Stephens meant to them. But it was the ending of Rye’s speech to the employees that might stick with Stephens’ co-workers most.
“Here is what I know about Jarvis. He had that something extra. We all saw it (and) that is why we are here,” he said. “If Jarvis were speaking to you this afternoon, I think he would say to you: ‘Yes, we are all ordinary, but what are you doing with your something extra?’”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.