St. Augustine, Fla. – September 26, 2022 – Investing in Kids (INK!) is honoring the life of James M. Stege, architect and dedicated professional who helped innumerous teachers and students, and many in need throughout St. Johns County, and beyond. Stege’s work to benefit educators and children was exemplified with the formation of INK!’s Five Learning Years (FLY) program. Stege worked with nonprofit staff members in 2014 to fundraise and start opportunities for FLY’s early literacy intervention among youngsters in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade.
Stege, 72, passed away in mid-September due to a serious illness after a lifetime of service to the community. He was a licensed architect in the State of Florida and project manager for more than 24 years in Northeast and Central Florida, along with owning and operating a well-known fish camp resort in Satsuma, Fla., and Stegbone, Inc., an architectural firm. He worked extensively in designing and helping to build St. Johns County School District schools, and supported a wide variety of nonprofits in Northeast Florida focused on youth, education, and environmental issues.
According to Donna Lueders, Executive Director of INK!, Stege joined the education foundation as a board member in 2010 until 2016. During this time, he worked with Mary Alice Hayes, FLY’s Program Director. “I’m sadder than I can say. Jim’s impact and support meant the world to me. He was so passionate about FLY and would be proud of its success. He kept watch over the program and always asked how we were progressing,” Hayes said.
“To date, after realizing 49 percent of St. Johns County school children were showing up for kindergarten unprepared and not meeting grade level standards, the program was developed with Jim’s key ideas, planning, and fundraising help to ensure all children who arrive at kindergarten are ready to learn. Beginning in pre-kindergarten, students are assessed for school readiness, and those in need of intervention are placed in small groups with an experienced tutor,” explained Hayes.
Tim Forson, Superintendent of St. Johns County District Schools, remembers Stege was a true friend of the school system. “I first met Jim as a representative of Schenkel Shultz Architecture. He immediately built a relationship with the staff and demonstrated a commitment to delivering outstanding schools,” said Forson. “I was also able to work with Jim through INK!, the St. Augustine Historical Society, and several volunteer projects that benefited the community. Jim was a big man with a huge heart for children and he will be greatly missed.”
Claudia Dencer, board member and volunteer with INK! since 2011, president of Rotary Club of St. Augustine, and executive vice president and general manager at Leonard’s Studio in St. Augustine, met Stege while he was a board member with INK! and member of the Rotary Club. Dencer is familiar with his philanthropic work for communities where he lived and worked. “Jim’s voluntary efforts to assist students in civic activities and Rotary involvement was much appreciated by our members, parents, and students who experienced scholastic, philanthropic, and civic involvement while learning about the world and nature, to name a few,” she said.
Stege’s longtime friends, Lyla Springfield and her brother-in-law, Jim Springfield, both of St. Augustine, knew Stege for more than 30 years locally and in Gainesville, Fla., and remembered him for his adventuresome spirit as a world traveler, and mostly for his tireless interests in helping children, adults, and families in need. They were also active with Stege in his educational and political activities, and helping the homeless. The Springfield’s recall Stege’s zest for life as a renaissance man, and force of nature who helped others with his larger-than-life presence and six-foot, eight-inch stature.
Stege earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce Education from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and a Master of Science in Architecture from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. He resided at his fish camp, Stegbone’s Fish Camp in Satsuma.