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.