Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Slain US ambassador had Northern California roots - Sacramento Bee

A day after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in Libya, friends in Northern California remembered him not just as a man devoted to the foreign service but also as a devoted friend.

By Wednesday morning, Paul Feist, a friend who had known him since they attended Piedmont High School in the East Bay in the 1970s, posted a status update on his Facebook page: " ‎25 years ago next week, John Christopher Stevens was the best man at my wedding. Today I awoke to the horrible news that Ambassador Stevens had been killed at the U.S. consulate in eastern Lybia. We are grief struck. Thank you, Chris, for being a friend and for serving your country and the international community so well and so selflessly."

The two met when they were freshmen who enjoyed sports and wrote for the student newspaper.

Throughout college and then through the years of Stevens' career with the State Department in the Middle East, he made a point of staying in touch, said Feist, a California Community Colleges vice chancellor.

"He would come back and visit family in the Bay Area and Sacramento, and he'd always come to Stockton to see us," said Feist. "We'd cook him a home-cooked meal. He'd come to the house, and we'd try to pump him for information about the excitement of his life and career.

"He was such an unpretentious guy. He'd want to know about your son and how he was doing in school. He was a remarkable man."

Stevens spent his early years in Davis, where he attended elementary and junior high school before his parents divorced. His father, Jan Stevens, is a retired attorney with the state of California. His mother, Mary Commanday, is a musician who once played cello with the Marin Symphony. A brother is in the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco, and a sister is a doctor in Seattle, Feist said.

Keith Sparks, a retired Sacramento County court of appeals judge who lives in Loomis, not far from Stevens' father and stepmother, said that Stevens visited Northern California not long before Hillary Clinton swore him in as ambassador to Libya in May. His father and stepmother attended the ceremony in Washington, D.C.

"I takes so long to develop great skill, and it's gone in an instant," Sparks said.

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