WILMINGTON — The spirit of a local icon with a passion for music, theater, students and his community will live on in the countless lives he touched.
Steven Haines died Wednesday at age 70 after a long illness.
A 1968 graduate of Wilmington High School, Haines was well-known for his involvement with music and the arts.
Haines served on the Board of Directors of the Murphy Theatre. He was music director of the Wilmington Methodist Church for many years and led the choir which performed at nursing homes, senior facilities and community events. He also brought seasonal music and theater experiences to churches, schools and community events.
He was currently President of the Wilmington Schools Foundation Board, of which he was a member for the past 11 years.
“I had the privilege to work alongside Steve on the Wilmington Schools Foundation board for six years,” said WSF Executive Director Chastity Flanigan. “In that six years, I witnessed a man who truly cared about a school he once attended. Steve had a passion for WCS and staff. He often talked about his time as a teacher.
“One thing I always enjoyed was the gift campaign with the foundation. Steve and I would visit all the buildings. I often felt like I was with a celebrity. He touched so many students, teachers and staff lives. I am sure many will miss his smiling face greeting them at the band’s chili supper.
She continued, “Steve would often give speeches about his time as a teacher and how foundation grants touched so many students’ lives. He would always tell a story about a boy whose family didn’t have much money. Steve and the high school principal had the opportunity to take students to a theatre production. Steven had given the boy a little cash to be able to go and enjoy some of his time with his fellow classmates. Once they returned and got off the bus that boy went to Steven and said, ‘Thank you; for a day I felt rich’. In his work with the foundation he wanted to give more students the opportunity to experience things they otherwise wouldn’t.
“Our board with miss him and his commitment to Wilmington City Schools and the foundation.”
In 2017 the George Clinton Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution awarded him the DAR Community Service Award for contributions to the community in an outstanding manner through voluntary service and community activities.
“Steven was a Clinton County community treasure,” Jim Gumley told the News Journal. “He was a most gifted and talented person who enthusiastically and generously shared his gifts with students, friends and the community. He saw and developed talents in people who previously had not realized their own abilities.
He called Haines “both an icon and a legend who set a bar of excellence to be attained in both theatrical and musical programs.”
Maretta Alden, Executive Director of the Murphy Theatre, remembers Haines as a wonderful musician, as someone full of wit and humor, and a joy to spend time with.
Alden had known Haines since she was 14, and she was his assistant youth choir director at the United Methodist Church.
“He was a great inspiration to the youths and adults throughout the artistic community,” she said. “My heartfelt condolences to Becky (Steven’s wife).”
Kevin Wall, who shared the stage with Haines, referred to him as a mentor.
“You showed me just how big the world can be, even here in our little hometown. You helped me discover my passion for the arts. You taught me how to make the impossible possible,” said Wall.
He added that Haines had a knack for bringing the best out of people and took every opportunity to teach something new to people.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without your influence,” said Wall.
Bekah Muchmore Wall, Kevin’s wife, stated, “You introduced multiple generations to a world of music, theatre and a love for the arts. We love you and can’t thank you enough.”
Jonathan McKay told the News Journal, “Steve was my theatre teacher in high school. He taught me many things about stage presence, how to build a set and overall self-confidence. He was also a speech teacher and my senior year I took the class. He said I was one of the worst speakers he had ever heard. By the end of the class he showed me how to have podium presence, speak without notes and how to handle a microphone. Those life lessons have served me well for a lot of years and I still practice what he taught me to this day.
He added, “I was so sad to hear of his passing. He was a true friend and a mentor. On behalf of the class of 2005 we would like to thank Steve and Becky for helping to be educators, mentors and, most of all, friends. This community has lost simply one of the best.”
As recently as 2019 Haines had been actively involved in local theatre, as a cast member of the Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre’s production of “Company, the Musical”, and he served as music director of the Wilmington College Theatre production of “Radium Girls”, for which his wife Becky handled the lighting.
“Yesterday, our light dimmed as Steven Haines passed” the Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre posted on its Facebook page. “He was one of the founders of Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre and over the last 48 years made an indelible mark upon our community.”
Many memories were shared on the page, including by Jason Forbes, who posted, “So much of who I am today, I owe to him, his lift, his vision, and his candor. Even though Steven hasn’t played a meaningful part of my day-to-day life for over twenty years, he has never left my side, and instead has been a voice directing me across the distance and years.
“I am grateful that that won’t change with his departure, but the world still feels so much quieter to me today.”
Steven Haines’ funeral arrangements are pending with Reynolds-Smith Funeral Home in Wilmington. They are expected to be finalized Friday.