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Stephen Gary Nolen, age 52, of South Bend, Indiana, passed away peacefully at home Saturday evening, July 6, 2019. Steve was born May 5, 1967, in South Bend to Gary and Kathleen (Stump) Nolen. He was a lifelong area resident. He is survived by his parents, Gary and Katie and his brother, Jeff Nolen.
He graduated from LaVille High School in 1985. He also graduated from Indiana University of South Bend with a degree in accounting and a degree in finance.
Steve’s best friend in the world was his brother Jeff. They lived together most of their adolescent and adult lives, and they were inseparable. Steve was also very close to his mother and father and his aunts and uncles. Growing up, Steve was a natural leader. He always organized his cousins, Shan and Amy Nolen, Darren and Lynn Walters, Eric and Cindy Johnson, Sean, Colleen and Brett Nolen, Derek and Shelby Jones, Jerry Lee, Brian Scott and Marty Divens, as well as friends Lori Freeman, Brent Lacher, and many others leading them on numerous adventures. Everyone spent a great amount of time at his family farm in Plymouth, Indiana. Hiking in the woods, playing in the old barns, riding bicycles and motorcycles and swimming in the family pool were some of Steve’s favorite activities. Steve was very close to his immediate family and his aunt and uncle Mike and Darlene Nolen, as well as cousins Burl and Jeanie Walters who were like an aunt and uncle to him. They became his second mothers and fathers. Joan and Duane Freeman, Jerry and Delores Divens, Norm and Linda Johnson, and Wayne and Judy Nolen were also a large part of Steve’s life. Steve’s grandma and grandpa Dwight and Donna Nolen of Lakeville, provided a warm home of love that gave Steve great inner peace and comforting security. His grandparents would take the male cousins in-tow every summer. Camping trips, paddling on the Tippecanoe River, and the sands of Tower Hill were some of Steve’s favorites. However, everyone agreed that grandma and grandpa’s little house of love and their expansive rustic property was where everyone preferred to be. Steve organized work details and supervised the elaborate creation of a trail system throughout the many fields and woods.
Steve was exceptionally proud of his childhood home in Marshall County and insisted on the responsibility and control of keeping the grounds pristine. When Steve was ten years old, he was inspired by Evel Knievel to put helmets on himself, and his brother Jeff in an attempt to jump the family truck across the gorge at the back of the farm. Like Evel’s endeavor at the Grand Canyon, the effort was unsuccessful. Steve and Jeff survived the challenge, but the old farm truck expired.
Steve and his family always traveled to Sebring in Highlands County Florida every holiday season. Although Steve usually only saw his cousins of the south, Chris, Anthony, and Lamar Dee Ritenour, and Mike and Mindy Stump once a year, the friendships were so close that it was as if the year’s separation did not exist. Steve’s Florida aunt and uncles, Lamar and Donna Ritenour, and Deane and Mary Stump, were role models and had an important spiritual influence on his life. Steve was exceptionally close to his grandparents Grant and Betty Stump, of Sebring Florida, who welcomed the family with open arms into their home every holiday trip. Steve retained great memories of the big oak moss trees, tangerine groves, fishing with Grandpa and Grandma, and swimming in Lake Jackson at Hidden Beach with the alligators. Side trips to each coast, the Ringling Brothers Circus and Bush Gardens were held in his heart forever. Steve and his family were one of the very first tourists to attend the newly constructed Disney World. A few of the rides and attractions were not yet complete. Steve and his brother Jeff considered each and every trip south to Florida very precious and the adventure of a lifetime. No trip south was complete without a stop at the top of Mount Eagle on the way home to buy fireworks.
While finishing high school, Steve implemented his leadership skills at the Balloon Wurks Restaurant in Plymouth, Indiana. Steve brought in his brother Jeff, cousin Darren Walters, and friend Lee Myers and they were professed by the owners Robert and Rosemary Listenberger as the most successful and efficient team the restaurant had ever seen.
After graduating high school, Steve began working in management at a local printing company, Instant Copy, and met a wonderful friend and traveling companion Jim Long of South Bend. Steve, Jeff and Jim became instant best friends and enjoyed numerous trips traveling north with their snowmobiles and canvasing the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Canada exploring the wintery arctic trails. They also hiked the North Manitou Island in upper Lake Michigan, and traveled to many locations to play golf together. Steve, Jeff and Jim all had one primary passion that outweighed everything else: spending countless hours together boating on Lake Michigan. Boating on the Great Lake of Michigan with Jim and Jeff at the helm was Steve’s absolute all-time favorite activity of his adult life.
After completing college, Steve began his career in the financial services industry. He along with his father and brother created the Nolen Financial Team. Steve loved the investment business. He enjoyed helping people achieve their financial goals. He enjoyed an especially good relationship with Mike Dillon at KeyBank as well as his KeyBank partners in Elkhart. Steve was able to combine business and hobby by playing golf at all of the major courses in the area, including the Firestone course in Akron, Ohio. At one time or another, he enjoyed membership at many of the area golf courses including Plymouth Country Club, Knollwood Country Club, and Elcona Country Club. Steve was an extremely competitive golfer, but would sometimes lose the match to his client by one stroke on the last hole. Steve was an excellent golf coach to his mother, grandparents and brother. He had an unusual ability to immediately analyze any golf swing and remedy the problems.
Steve was also a very competitive billiards player and enjoyed playing with some of the best billiard players in northern Indiana. Steve was very excited to have the opportunity to play with Mark Jarvis while Mark was working with the actors on the set of the Hollywood film “The Color Of Money” starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. Steve spent many of his summer days in South Haven, Michigan, with his family sailing and playing in the waves and operating his power boat. Of course it goes without saying, the boat had to have a great sound system. Steve loved music. It was his passion and he had every song important to him in his extensive CD collection which he carried with him at all times. Steve would often play along to favorites on his cherry red Peavey guitar. Steve enjoyed great times with his good friends Rich and Jodi and playing music with Jodi’s father and spending time at their home.
Steve and his family shared numerous trips to the British Virgin Islands, many times accompanied by friends. They would sail their own boat and visit a different island every day. On June 23, 1994, Steve married Brenda Spychalski aboard a 230 foot sailing ship named “The Flying Cloud” in the British Virgin Islands. Steve’s ability to make friends with everyone led to all of the ship’s passengers and crew as well as the official British Magistrate to join the wedding party as Captain Guyan March presided. An extensive steel drum party went long into the night ending with Steve’s specular head-first dive in full wedding attire from the bow of the ship some fifty feet above the water. His brother Jeff also jumped with Steve, but his fear of heights led him to only jump feet first. Steve and Brenda spent their honeymoon aboard the vessel. Always one to travel with an entourage, Steve brought along on the honeymoon cruise his father, his mother and his brother who was his best man, as well as six of his closest friends.
In terms of altitude, Steve has been as high as 12,000 feet in the air at the controls flying in his father’s blue Cessna 150, and as deep as 110 feet underwater while scuba diving inside a sunken ship in the Caribbean Islands with his brother Jeff. Steve often recounted the story of the famous “go-around” that he and his family experienced at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport with his favorite Boing 757 pilot, Flash Gordon, while returning from the British Virgin Islands in a blinding snowstorm. Steve and his brother Jeff knew Flash was very busy in the cockpit when they observed another large airliner attempting to land on the same runway directly below them. Steve calmly commented, “Well folks, get ready. We are going to go back up.” Steve was correct and he had a good conversation with Flash in the cockpit after safely landing on the second attempt.
A memorial service will be held at a later date and Steve’s final resting place will be at the Porter Rea Cemetery on the banks of Worster Lake, in Potato Creek State Park with a view of he and Jeff’s favorite fishing hole.
After he retired, Steve developed and implemented a program which he called “Second Chance”. He personally conducted this program on site at the Westville Correctional Facility in Westville, Indiana. In this program he helped incarcerated individuals begin the process of achieving their second chance. This involved ensuring that each person, if they had not already done so, earn a high school diploma. In addition, his program involved a three-prong approach to a better and more successful life. He divided his training into three areas: Mind, Body and Financial. His work will now live on through the Stephen Gary Nolen Foundation.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that all contributions be made payable to Palmer Funeral Homes, attention Kerry Palmer.
Palmer Funeral Home
3718 South Michigan Street, South Bend IN 46614