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Joseph Stefani

May 7, 1963 ~ February 22, 2018

Service: February 26, 2018 4:20 P.M.
   Location: Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service

Joseph Stefani, 54 of Bozeman passed away peacefully on Thursday morning.

Joe was active in the Bozeman Choral Society, contra danced with the Folklore Society, and was the former head of school at Headwaters Academy.

A memorial service will be held Monday, February 26 at Dokken-Nelson Funeral Home on Willson  Ave. at 4:20pm.

Joseph was born on May 7, 1963, in Irvington, New Jersey. The sun was in Taurus giving him its gifts of charm and delight in the sensual pleasures of good food and music. The moon in Scorpio added emotional intensity and unrivaled courage and fortitude to his mix. He did things like wake up one day and decide to never drink coffee again --- and never did.  Joseph lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania before moving to Milan, Italy, with his family for a few years. He often remarked on the quality of lunches at his school as well as the experience of rock fights in the streets. He went to Hartwick College in upstate New York and studied psychology and lived in a frat house and relished the coolness of having Vermont plates on his MG. When he received the MG, a manual transmission car, from his father, he didn’t have the heart to tell him that he couldn’t drive stick so he had to teach himself on the drive back to school. At the end of college, in 1985 or so, Joe embarked on a NOLS trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming where he cut his teeth on glaciers and manifested a love for being in the wilderness that, of course, had been inside him his whole life. He intended to read Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum while in the woods but left it on the plane when he arrived.

Sometime around 1988, he started dating Valerie Mergentime, whom he had previously met through his sister in 1984. He knew he loved her after about a week and by 1989 they were engaged, marrying on June 30, 1990, in Lebanon, New Jersey, where the party followed at Valerie’s parents’ farm. Throughout their marriage, the pair loved dates together, dancing flamboyantly, and all sorts of arts activities. Valerie’s father, Charlie, loved Joe like a son and at dinner parties, with a full table of guests, would often loudly proclaim: “Here’s to ya, Joey!” 

Valerie encouraged Joe to follow his passion for education, so Joe returned to university, this time studying history at Rutgers University. He obtained a Master’s degree for his research on congressional elections in New Jersey during the Civil War and at this time developed a love for food trucks and an admiration of the historical figure Henry Clay. From here, he began his career teaching middle and high school history at Rutgers Prep School on the banks of the Raritan Canal in Somerset, New Jersey. From the very start, it was clear to other teachers and students that Joe was meant to be a teacher; he had found his vocation. By this point he was living in Lambertville with Valerie; in 1994 they welcomed a son, Philip; in 1996, a daughter, Lily; and in 1998, daughter, Anya.

 He would work to the evening at RPS and then come home, opening the front door announcing, “Daddy home!” Jazz was always on the stereo, but Joe also loved rap and Jethro Tull.

With Philip, Joe would go to New York Jets games and tailgate in the parking lot as well as all the museums in New York City and spend hours wandering the Strand Bookstore and listening to standup comedy. With Lily, Joe loved to have daddy-daughter dates to the movies, exhibits in New York City, yoga, running, bagging peaks in Colorado, and playing dominoes late at night. With Anya he enjoyed dog walks, watching Family Guy, fro-yo dates, skiing together – the two of them together were the funny ones of the family. He loved swimming with all his kids in pools, rivers, and oceans.

In 2004 Joe made the jump to being a head of school, at Hilltop Country Day School in Sparta, New Jersey. Here, all his children went to his school and would be able to hang out with him in his office. One student once remarked that a suspension with Mr. Stefani was the best because you got to hang out in his office and listen to cool music. In 2011 the family moved to Telluride, Colorado, and here Joe rediscovered skiing and spending time in the mountains. He would bring the dog, Bertie, to school and she would spend time with him in his office, too. In Colorado, he hiked to the top of a 13000 ft mountain and skied down. He captured seven 14ers as well.  In 2014 he and family moved to Bozeman where Joe continued all of his life passions and joined the Bozeman Choir, skied the ridge, and played a ton of dominoes, backgammon, and gin rummy with his family.  

We lost Joe far too soon. He is survived by his wife, Valerie; his children, Philip, Lily, and Anya; his parents; his brother and sister; and numerous other relatives.

 In lieu of flowers please donate in Joe’s name to either Hospice of Bozeman Health (Bozeman Health Foundation 931 Highland Blvd. Suite 3200 Bozeman, MT 59715); or Hyalite Country Care (6040 S 3rd Rd, Bozeman, MT 59715).

The family would like to extend their sincere gratitude to LeAnn Bunn, from Hyalite Country Care, for her dedication and care to Joe over the past several months. 

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"Thank you for all your help and support during the death of my mother.  I was very impressed with your staff throughout this difficult process.  With your help we were able to say good-bye to our mother in a very meaningful way.  Our loss is still so new, but our thanks to you for the care you showed."

~ Lisa F.
 
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