Stephen Chapman Matchett

MatchettStephen Chapman Matchett, 63, on May 19, 2020, in San Francisco, Calif. Stephen was born into a Quaker family on May 10, 1957, in Seattle, Wash., son of William Henry Matchett and Judith Wright Matchett. He was raised in University Meeting in Seattle, where he was introduced to the social activist traditions of Friends. Stephen moved from junior to adult membership at University Meeting, then transferred to San Francisco (Calif.) Meeting in December 1983.

As a child, Stephen loved drawing, reading, and playing the recorder, piano, and oboe. His love for writing and the theatre was nourished by the family’s annual summer trips to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore. They traveled to Italy in 1962–63 and to London in 1970–71, Stephen attending school in both places. At age 19, Stephen dropped out of Swarthmore College to work with the United Farm Workers in California. He enrolled at San Francisco State, where he came out to his friends and family and formed a loving partnership with Calu Lester.

In the early 1980s, Stephen, Calu, and Calu’s adopted son, Damon, moved to a building on Fell Street, where Stephen resided for the remainder of his life. In 1986, Calu succumbed to AIDS. Damon was returned to foster care. Stephen and Damon remained in touch.

After graduating from San Francisco State, Stephen earned a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. While a law student, Stephen clerked for a state supreme court judge. A career representing convicted capital and noncapital defendants on appeal followed, first with the public defender’s office and later in private practice.

From 2001 to 2008, Stephen led “State of the Meeting” workshops under the sponsorship of College Park Quarterly Meeting. His understanding of Quaker faith broadened and deepened as he read scriptures and early Friends’ writings. Two ministries resulted. Launched in 2004, “Going to the Well” studied early Quaker writings and shared Stephen’s story of awakening to Quakerism’s historical Christian message and its significance today. His first weekend-long program was at Ben Lomond Quaker Center, then at North Pacific Yearly Meeting annual sessions, Berkeley Friends Church, Pacific Yearly Meeting annual sessions, and elsewhere.

In 2005, a second ministry, “Come as You Are,” consisted of personally focused Bible study. In 2012, this program formed the basis for a weekend program at Quaker Center. He led similar workshops at Friends General Conference Gathering in 2013, and at Quaker Center in 2019.

Stephen served his monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings through committee work and, at various times, as clerk. He co-developed a program called “Speaking Truth to Quakers” to help meetings address interpersonal conflict.

Fifteen years ago, Stephen took leave from his law practice. He had recently ended a long-term relationship and sought help in a 12-step recovery program. Stephen understood that his well-developed self-reliance was, by itself, insufficient to overcome his problems.

Stephen was active in Alternatives to Violence Project. He sang in the San Francisco Bach Choir and was an active participant in Black and White Men Together.

In September 2019, Stephen joyfully adopted Damon (now known as Leo Vega). Stephen cherished this recognition of their relationship, and felt their reconnection to be one of his most important accomplishments.

Stephen retained the friendship of two former partners, Barry Bell and Al Cunningham. He is survived by his parents, William and Judith Matchett; one child, Leo Vega (Landsly); four grandchildren; one great-grandchild; a brother, David Matchett (Carol Snow); a sister, Katherine Mallalieu (Chris); and two nieces and one nephew.

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