For a brief period on the night of Sunday, January 26, 2020, an ordinary, four-block-long residential street in West Mesa became a glowing pathway to Heaven. Luminarias, set along Palmer Street with loving care, gave off their soft golden glow, marking the way to and from the home where an extraordinary woman of courage, compassion, and Christlike love had so recently lived. It was the way this close-knit neighborhood honored her on her final journey home…the way they said to her “Godspeed” — and to her family, “We will miss her” and “Oh, how we loved and admired her.” “She is our hero!”
Stephanie Brimley, just 41 years old, was startled 3-1/2 years ago by the diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer. Startled, but unafraid. Startled, but determined to fight with a warrior’s ferocity, with a champion’s courage. And so she did, until her body – but not her spirit — could fight no more.
She was born to Ivard and Elizabeth Brimley on May 1, 1978, in Mesa Lutheran Hospital in Mesa. She lived her entire life in that fine city: She grew up there, she played there, she went to school there, she loved friends and family there, and there she found her life’s calling.
Over the course of her life, Stephanie earned three college degrees: a Bachelor of Education degree from Ottawa University, and two Master’s degrees – one in Special Education, one in Autism Spectrum Disorders, from Grand Canyon University. Though she was the youngest of 6 children in the Brimley family, she was the first to receive a college degree, for she knew what she wanted to be – a teacher. Her career with the Mesa Public School District spanned 17 years, during which she taught at Hawthorne (now Hughes) Elementary School. Her final class assignment was 5th Grade…and oh, how she loved those children, especially the ones who needed special attention and extra help. She made it her life’s work to reach out with love not just to ‘special needs’ children, but to all people, young or old. A friend, learning of her passing, said Stephanie “was my best friend throughout high school, my only friend really. She took me to lunch every day. She knew me better than anyone.” Stephanie embraced everyone she met, without judgment, with unconditional love – a lifestyle she learned in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she was a lifelong member. There, in the New Testament Gospel of John, she read that the Savior gave His disciples a new commandment: “…as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” And so, she did, without restraint.
When she retired from her teaching job in 2019, it was not because she wanted to, but because that relentless enemy, cancer, had resisted her valiant attempts to beat it, and had made her unable to continue in the profession she loved. Still, she continued to teach the children around her: her beloved nieces, nephews, a grand niece and two grand nephews, 24 in all. Throughout her Church service, she taught both children and adults — the children in the Primary and Young Women’s programs in the 20th Ward, the adults in the women’s program, as Relief Society Secretary, and adults and children as a leader in the Stake Primary Presidency.
The playful side of Stephanie took diverse forms. At Carson Junior High School, and at Westwood High School (Class of ’96), Stephanie showed her competitive side, playing no-holds-barred women’s volleyball…and playing it so well that she joined the elite Club Red Volleyball Team and traveled the Valley in pursuit of victories.
Then there were the weapons…. Yes, this kind and loving daughter and teacher and friend also loved the feel of a .22 rifle or a shotgun in her hands, plinking cans and bottles in the desert with her brother John, enjoying the fun and freedom of days in Arizona’s beautiful outdoors, while also honing her marksmanship.
Stephanie’s softer side included a passion for all things Disney. There were frequent trips with the family to Disneyland, conveniently located just seven hours to the west of Mesa. Her room at home was filled with Disney princesses, beautiful dolls of all sizes and descriptions, and pillows galore covered with Disney characters’ images. And water-filled glass ‘snow’ globes with Disney characters and scenes depicted inside. They provided a magical getaway for this woman who worked so hard in the real world.
So, too, did Stephanie’s skill in the kitchen, where she was renowned for her baking – most particularly for her delicious cupcakes, slathered generously with her incredible buttercream icing. Less than a month before her passing, she was hard at work providing 200 of these superb cupcakes for a family member’s wedding reception…an act of love and kindness typical of Stephanie.
Stephanie’s large, loving family survives her, including: Father and Mother, Ivard and Elizabeth Brimley; sister, Maribeth Child (Scott); brothers, Wayne (Gail) Brimley, Merrill (Jenni) Brimley, John (Cristi) Brimley, and Charles (Suzanne) Brimley; and 24 nieces and nephews; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. She was preceded in death by her niece, Avery Jane Brimley.
Now the honor and responsibility of sharing love, remembrance and life stories about Stephanie falls to that wonderful family, as her life is celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building, 848 N. Westwood St., Mesa. Viewings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, at Bunker Family Mortuary, 33 N. Centennial Way, Mesa, and on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Church. The family asks that to honor Stephanie’s kind, compassionate caregivers in her final days, that donations to Hospice at Home of Arizona, 1423 S. Higley Rd., Suite 121, Mesa, AZ 85206 be considered in lieu of flowers…and the family wishes to offer its special gratitude to the caregivers, Wendy and Jessica, who went the extra mile in service to the family.
Following the Feb. 1 funeral service at the Church, Stephanie will be buried in the Mesa City Cemetery, 1212 N. Center St. Her love of bagpipe music will be celebrated at the Church and at graveside by a lone bagpiper.
No words can adequately relay our deep awe and admiration for this great woman.
While we had not known her personally, her life history in her obituary made us humbly sorry to have missed being part of her life. Deepest love and sympathy to the Brimley family.
I loved Stephanie for her fighting spirit and determination. I also loved her for her love of teaching and especially for those special needs children. I have an autistic grandson so I know how hard it is to reach and teach these sweet spirits. Her family – and all of us – will miss her beautiful spirit but I know that Heavenly Father has called her home for a special assignment which only she can complete. Thanks Stephanie for the courage and dignity you have shown to all of us. Your example has taught us adults as well as your students how to be brave.
Stephanie was and always will be a blessing to those around her. Her example of the love of family, service, courage, strength and the gift of happiness and joy she shared and lived is truly something to admire and want to pass forward… What an honorable legacy. Love and prayers to ‘Uncle’ Ivard, Elizabeth and all the Brimley family.
So sorry for your loss! Love and Prayers to the Brimley Family.
My heartful prayers are with the Brimley family. Elizabeth would bring sugar cookies with butter cream frosting that her daughter’s had made. They were delicious and I had to remember my manners and only eat one, thou I wanted 2 or 3.
What a beautiful service the family held today to honor Stephanie. I’m deeply honored that I got to be there for every minute of it. I worked with Stephanie almost her entire teaching career. She started on my 4th grade team coming from preschool. I was lucky enough to become her mentor. We instantly became friends. She taught both of my children in 4th grade as well. She became such a good family friend that my children Cameron and Rachael would tell her she was their honorary aunt. I’m so glad that I was able to watch over Stephanie at school while she was battling this awful disease. Stephanie touched so many people and she will never be forgotten. My Dearest Friend, Rest in Peace. I Love You.
Stephanie had such a beautiful spirit. And her giving heart shined in everything she did. I taught 4th grade with Stephanie and we had a lot of fun times teaching.She was an amazing teacher and so helpful to everyone who needed help or a special treat. We had a trust between each other that during the tough times we would often take time to ask each other to pray for our families or for ourselves or for our friends. I will be forever blessed to have her in my life and see all those students that she taught pass on her love for learning and for others.
The moment I found out that my 5th grade teacher had passed i was heartbroken. I have never felt so much pain in my life. She was the only teacher i could ever trust to not only be my teacher but my best friend. I was in her class from 2017-2018. i just cant believe it been 3 years since I last remember sitting in her class room, it was so magical with all the quotes and the Disney theme she always loved Disney. She was an amazing teacher, best friend, daughter. She taught me all I know so far in life, believe it or not I still have my CGI folder and my folder of 5th grade memories. I was blessed to have such an amazing teacher. I love you and miss you so much.
wow it has been over a year now with you gone. and i still think about you.