East Bay Family Grieves Slain Ambassador Chris Stevens
Local family members of Chris Stevens, the slain U.S. ambassador to Libya, are beginning the process of laying their loved one to rest. His relatives fly to Washington Thursday to meet his body. Stevens died Tuesday when a mob attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Stevens' stepfather, Robert Commanday, said the family learned the news while visiting Yosemite National Park.
"We got the news at 11 o'clock Tuesday night," Commanday said. "And then, after a sleepless night were driven at 5 in the morning to a bus that took us to the train in Merced, and then we came home to Oakland."
Commanday says family members from California, London and San Antonio will meet in Washington to receive the ambassador's remains. They will also begin collecting the personal effects from his Washington-area home and looking into Stevens' will. It's an unexpected end for a man who seemed to be in the prime of his life.
"He was smiling and laughing all the time, and he was in good health. He was a distance runner and an avid tennis player. A golden boy, really," Copmmanday said.
Commanday remembers his stepson being very much at ease in the Arab world, and somewhat light-hearted about the dangers of the Middle East.
"When his mother would express her concern or anxiety when he was in countries that were dangerous," Commanday said, "he'd say, 'Mom, it's no more dangerous than Oakland!' And he never showed any concern or anxiety about his presence."
His mother, Mary Commanday, is a retired cellist for the Marin Symphony. Robert Commanday runs a local website on San Francisco's classical music scene after years as the San Francisco Chronicle's music critic.
Chris Stevens was born in Grass Valley and raised in Marin County and Davis. He graduated from Piedmont High School, UC-Berkeley and UC-Hastings College of the Law. Professor David Levine of UC Hastings recalls teaching Stevens back in the 1980s.
"At the end of each semester, I usually talk to the students a little bit about students who've been in the classes here," Levine said. "Chris is one of those people I would talk about. We would say, 'Hey, here's a guy who was in my class, and he went on to great things, and so can you.' "
Stevens, 52, is survived by his mother, stepmother, stepfather, brothers and sisters.
Commanday says the family is still in shock, but he's also grateful that Stevens was following his passion up to the end of his life.
"He was doing what he wanted to do in life, and fulfilling himself in that way," Commanday said. "Not all of us have that opportunity."