Stephen Vitatoe, 56

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Stephen Andrew Vitatoe, 56, died at home, "surrounded by those who loved him," on June 12, 2004, after a brief battle with cancer.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, 19, from 1-3:30 p.m. with services to follow at 4 p.m. at Summers Funeral Home, McMurtrey Chapel, in Mountain Home.

He was born March 4, 1948, at Rockwood, Tenn.; the second of three sons born to Arval Thomas Vitatoe, Sr., and Thelma Nadine Abston.

He went to school at Rockwood Elementary and Rockwood High School. He received the Rockwood scholastic award, setting the record for attaining the highest scholastic scores ever received by an individual since his graduation from Rockwood High in 1966.

He enlisted in the United States Air Force before graduating from high school and received his training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., where he held the position of a "Red Rope."

Upon further training in Electronic Warfare, he was assigned at Elmendorf AFB in Germany. In 1968 he was assigned with the 417th at Mountain Home AFB.

While at Mountain Home AFB, he met and married Jo Ann Bessie Cramer on Aug. 16, 1969. The couple lived in Mountain Home until shortly after their daughter, Stephannie, was born in 1970.

After a short break in service, he re-enlisted into the United States Air Force in March 1971 and was assigned to Sheppard AFB, Texas, where he cross-trained into DSTE, then Norton AFB, California where their son, Robert, was born in 1972.

Other places he was stationed were: Thailand/Vietnam; Tinker AFB, Okla.; Misawa, Japan; and Loring AFB, Maine.

He then cross-trained into Satellite Communications at Ft. Gordon, Ga.; then was assigned to March AFB, Calif., Shemya, Alaska; Griffis AFB, N.Y., and New Boston, N.H.

He retired as a master sergeant from the United States Air Force in 1987 and went to work for Civil Service as an AFETS at Wilder, Idaho, Eglin AFB, Fla., and Mountain Home AFB. He retired from Civil Service in May 2000, due to multiple medical problems.

He received the meritorial achievement metal in 1987 for his work on the "Star Wars" defense system with NASA. He also received two meritorial service metals, four military commendation metals, and multiple service and performance certificates while in the military. He received the civilian of the year award, while in the Civil Service at Eglin AFB.

"Steve loved to work on computers, he could make them do things they weren't meant to do, much to the amazement of other people, and thereby receiving the nickname 'Wizard'," his family said.

"He loved to sing and play the guitar, the outdoors, tinkering with all kinds of electronics, fixing things, collecting guns, and a good challenge. He loved to barbecue as long as Adrian and Jenn tended the grills.

"He was like an armadillo. To those who didn't know him well, he had a hard exterior, but those who loved and knew him, got to see his soft, caring, and gentle underbelly.

"He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, and uncle, who will be remembered for his courage and wisdom, and will be sorely missed."

He is survived by: his wife of 34 years, Jo Ann, of Mountain Home; a daughter, Stephannie Kobal of Mountain Home; a son Robert Vitatoe and his wife, Tammy, of Statesboro, Ga.; two brothers, Arval "Tommy" Vitatoe, Jr., and his wife, Bettye Ann, of Marysville, Tenn., and Larry Vitatoe of Hixson, Tenn.; two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Arval Vitatoe, Sr., and Thelma Vitatoe; his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Bessie and Harris Cramer, two brother-in-laws, De Wayne Cramer and Raleigh Tyndall and two nephews.