As befitting the funeral of a life-long educator, Steve McDermott’s memorial service was filled with the lessons he taught throughout his life.
Friends, family and colleagues gathered to remember McDermott Monday in the Creston Community High School gymnasium celebrating his love of country with the pledge of allegiance, his faith in God with the Lord’s prayer and his focus on others through story and song.
Pastor Jodi Rushing of the Creston United Methodist Church spoke of McDermott’s focus on God, rather than self, and read from the book of Matthew explaining that he embodied the idea of “shining your light” on others as he shared of his gifts of art, music and who he was as a superintendent, principal and teacher.
She said he taught how to love each other — by word and example.
Jeff Moser, principal at Harlan Community Intermediate School, also spoke of the lessons McDermott left behind. He shared some of McDermott’s down-to-earth, farm-boy proverbs — “pigs don’t gain weight while they’re standing on the scale” speaking of the over-use of state testing in schools. He spoke of McDermott’s humility, saying he wouldn’t like having all of the focus on him and how he would always turn the attention someone else. He reminded the audience that McDermott would have told them to “have a good day on purpose.”
Chris Purdy, McDermott’s cousin, spoke of looking up to his older cousin as a child and how he made Purdy feel welcomed and loved on his trips to the McDermott farm. He said his appreciation for McDermott grew throughout his life.
“I came to see how his upbringing in a loving farm family had changed him into a man who would dedicate his life to the service others,” Purdy said. “He stayed close to his roots choosing to serve and invest in smaller Iowa communities like the one where he’d grown and developed.”
Purdy remembered McDermott as an example of faith and love during his battle with cancer, saying he kept “a steadfast focus on ‘we’ instead of ‘me.’”
McDermott’s three children — Casey, Colton and Cooper — shared the lessons he left them with in his final words to them:
“Be strong. Life isn’t always fair or easy. Life has its hurdles ... God never gives us more than we can handle ... We ‘can do all things through Christ who strengthens’ us.”
“Stick with God and Jesus ... sometimes you have to work to see Him in times of personal tragedy.”
“Take care of each other. God will always be there for us, but we need to be there for one another.”
“There are so many blessings through the little things. Appreciate every moment regardless of how big or small.”
“Do more for others than for yourself. Give. Serve.”
McDermott’s final lessons were followed by a Luke Combs’ song, whose words spoke of a child struggling with his father going away and the father’s answer, “Just ‘cause I’m leaving ... I ain’t going nowhere.”
McDermott’s impact on the lives of his family and the communities he served “ain’t going nowhere.”
McDermott served as superintendent of the Newton Community School District for 11 years. During his time in Newton, he was very active in the community, serving in leadership positions in the Newton Community Educational Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, United Way and First United Methodist Church. McDermott was instrumental in the realignment of schools in Newton, numerous school construction projects and the creation of the Regional Vocational Academy in Newton.