This story has been archived from the Thursday, July 20, 2006 Denver Post

From start to finish, adept athlete gave his all

By Claire Martin
Denver Post Staff Writer

Phil Stevenson, who died at age 64 of an undiagnosed genetic heart condition while bicycling the Triple ByPass on July 8, stunned colleagues and friends familiar with his athletic prowess.

He and his wife, Nancy, devoted their free time to extreme sports.

Phil Stevenson and his wife, Nancy, ran, biked, climbed and much more. "You name it, we did it," Nancy said.

They ran marathons and trail runs, including the arduous Pikes Peak Ascent, a 7,815-foot climb in 13.32 miles; the Imogene Pass Run, a 17.1-mile trail run from Ouray to Telluride; and the 48-mile Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run that takes runners from the canyon’s south rim to the north rim and back again.

They climbed mountains, including all of Colorado’s fourteeners, Denali in Alaska, Washington’s Mount Rainier and the upper Exum Ridge route on Wyoming’s Grand Teton. In 1990, Stevenson climbed 22,841- foot Aconcagua, one of the world’s seven highest mountains.

“You name it, we did it,” Nancy Stevenson said. “Golf, Rollerblading, mountain climbing, bicycling, mountain biking. Spinning, squash, weightlifting, swimming, rock climbing. He did the Pikes Peak Ascent almost every year for 20 years. To me, I still can’t imagine that he had heart problems. He was a fantastic athlete, and he helped me accomplish my goals, too.#&148;

Phillip Joseph Stevenson, a tire and rubber industry salesman, was born in Manistee, Mich. He was still a teenager when he married his high school girlfriend, with whom he had three children. He earned a wrestling scholarship at the University of Northern Colorado. As a student, he held several part-time jobs that helped finance the down payment for a house and pay tuition expenses.

Phil Stevenson credited his stalwart Christian faith for helping him survive two harrowing episodes — a divorce

and the suicide of his youngest son — and for guiding him to Nancy Stark, a fellow runner, fervent Christian and passionate athlete who became his second wife.

“We would drive each other, like pingpong,” she said. “When I wanted to break 40 minutes in a 10-kilometer run, all he wanted was to help me accomplish that. He ran beside me the whole time, giving up running a 38-minute 10K so I could break 40.#&148;

Stevenson radiated the same encouragement to his friends, especially the two dozen men who regularly met for the Extravaganza, an all- male week of extreme sports that included whitewater kayaking and spelunking.

It was miserably rainy and cold the day Stevenson died. After reaching the summit of Squaw Pass, the first of the passes on the Triple ByPass ride, he left his shivering wife in the Echo Lake Lodge and began cycling to retrieve their car in Golden. His heart gave out on the way.

Besides his wife, survivors include daughter Kallie Benjamin of Denver; son Scott Stevenson of Littleton; brothers David Stevenson of Colorado Springs and James Stevenson of Lakewood; and three grandchildren. His son Joseph Stevenson preceded him in death.

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