Max H. "Papaw Max" Stephenson died Thursday, October 24, at his home in Rosenberg, Texas, after a lengthy illness, his family at his side and an Elvis song in his heart.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Max H. and Nathalyne Stephenson of Big Point, Miss., his sister Diana Stephenson, infant daughter Katherine Michelle Stephenson, and grandson Nicholas Wiles.
He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Gail Jackson Stephenson of Rosenberg; sons Jeffry (Iny) Stephenson of Bentonville, Ark., Creg (Cristina) Stephenson of Theodore, Ala., and Joey (Ghina) Stephenson of Pittsburgh, Pa.; daughters Wendy (Bill) Anasti of Sugar Land, Texas, and Kelly (Charlie) Gerszewski of Woodland Park, Colo.; brother Ronald (Gay) Stephenson of Florence, Miss.; and sisters Sharon Stephenson and Judith A. Stephenson of Houston, Texas, and Jean (Al) Boleware of Pearl, Miss.; 15 grandchildren, various nieces and nephews, in-laws and outlaws, as well as boxes upon boxes of unsmoked cigars.
Born December 17, 1944, in Denver, Colo., but raised in Big Point, Miss., Max was an outstanding student and athlete at East Central High School, graduating in 1963 as salutatorian and senior class president. After briefly attending Mississippi State University, he entered the workforce, and in his words, "got a dollar ahead and never looked back." He spent time as a police officer with the City of Moss Point and with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, surviving a shooting on November 26, 1971, a day he thereafter referred to as his "second birthday." He carried a bullet in his right shoulder from that day forward.
In 1973, seeking a more-lucrative (and generally less-dangerous) line of work, Max moved into the construction industry. His career took him to exotic locales such as Indonesia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Algeria and the Philippines, though he maintained a home base in the Houston area from 1994 onward.
Max retired as Global Construction Manager for KBR in 2015, and most days after that could be found on the back patio of the Rosenberg house (AKA, the "house that Abu Dhabi built"), a book in his hands and a cigar in his mouth. Known above all for his generosity, Max was always there with a few dollars to help friends and family make ends meet, and to put in a good word for anyone who needed a job. He also offered unsolicited advice on the best traffic routes around Houston and the lowest gas prices in town, as well as weather patterns that might or might not directly impact family members several days later.
The Stephenson family would like to thank Dr. Nadeem Qurashi and the staff at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, Susan Keller and the staff of Newlight Hospice, and especially Chelsey Kemp and the staff of Metoyer Roundtable Consulting for their kindness and professionalism and for making Max's final months, weeks, days and hours as comfortable as possible.
At Max's request, there will be no visitation, funeral or memorial service, because the last thing he wanted was for anyone to make a fuss over him. As he told his family shortly before he died, "I've had a great life. Now it's time for you to go live yours."