On March 13, 2011 Thomas Cade Stephens, better known as Big Stephe, was released from his mortal body to join the many that preceded him to the spiritual realm. He was born June 9, 1924 in Nacogdoches County Texas to Everett Leonard and Nettie (Cade) Stephens. He grew up there finishing high school before being inducted into the Army June 10, 1943. He served with the 717- Tank Battalion in the Rhineland Campaign. His foreign service was only 5 months 4 days. He was shot through his right wrist during the Battle of The Bulge, leaving him with a crippled right hand and ending his dream of a profession football career. The next year was spent in the Wakeman General Hospital in Atterbury, Indiana recovering before his Honorable Discharge May 2, 1946. He received the following decorations and citations; European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star Good Conduct medal; World War 11 Victory Ribbon; American Theater Ribbon. After his release he joined the thousands returning veterans to enter college on the GI Bill of Rights. He received his Master's Degree from Stephen F. Austin College University in Nacogdoches, Texas. In January 1947 he started dating Jaunice Corder and they were married March 16, 1947 - a marriage that lasted only three days shy of 64 years. They had two sons while he attended college, Jahton Thomas Stephens and Lephen Corder Stephens. His school teaching career took them first to Brownsville, TX, then to Port Orchard, WA, then to Rapid City South Dakota, and then to Cody, WY. He worked for the Police Departments during summer months in Rapid City, South Dakota and Cody, WY before taking a job with the Jackson, WY Police Department June 1964. At that time the Jackson police depart consisted of the Chief, a day officer and a night officer. The Sheriff's department was the Sheriff and a Deputy. How times have changed since then! After about 13 months he quit the police department to work with the movie companies that were filming in the valley in the 1970's. He also was a model for artist and photographers. Thousands of photos, paintings, and magazine articles appeared of him. Because of over thirty years participation with the longest, continuous running street show - Jackson Hole Shoot Out - held every summer, thousands of photos were made with him on the town square. There were many from foreign countries that came back year after year and spoke with him and took pictures again with their family. Some folks have third generation pictures taken with him. His weak heart and Alzheimer removed him from this activity a couple of years ago, but it was something he really enjoyed. His baritone voice was heard singing his favorite song "How Great Thou Art" often as he made his rounds on the town square before the show as he interacted with the thousands of tourist that gathered for the Shoot Out. Besides leading singing at the Jackson Church of Christ his voice was heard on Shadow Mountain during breaks while filming two commercials, on movie sets around the valley, and on Signal Mountain while showing visitors the sights. As we walked from a look-out point a grouse took a fancy to his boots (always with his jeans tucked inside) and strutted around him. Such a sight! Then at the parking lot the tourist joined him in the song as we viewed the majestic Tetons. He truly enjoyed hunting; quail, grouse, ducks and geese in Texas; bear and birds in WA; deer, pheasant, ducks and turkey in South Dakota and Wyoming, and big game hunting in the Cody and Jackson area. I tell people that we lived where we wanted to and made a living the best way we could - it was the hunting trails he followed. Horses were a family affair and we took much pleasure in the horses we raised, broke and rode during the years. Our life was full of adventure and we were blessed to have such a long life together. He is survived by me his wife, Jaunice (Corder), sons Jahton Thomas Stephens and Lephen Corder Stephens. Jahton's wife Cathie (Jackson, WY); their children Kelly Thomas Stephens (wife Cara) from Austin, TX; and Jena Marie Bowles ( husband Aaron ) and her daughter Cadie Vaughan Lynn who live in Jackson, WY. Lephen and his wife Elaine live in Wichita Falls, TX. His parents and siblings all preceded him in death. A "one of a kind" person is gone - we shall miss him. A Memorial service will be announced later for this summer. Memorial contributions may be made to the Jackson Church of Christ building fund (P.O. Box 1178, Jackson, WY 83001), Hospice of The Tetons at St John's Hospital (P.O. Box 428, Jackson, WY 83001) or charity of your choice.
Photo by BRADLY J. BONER, JACKSON HOLE NEWS&GUIDE