Stephen Carl Breeden, 69, died Thursday at IU Hospice House in Bloomington. He left this world encircled by family members who loved him, and who sang gospel hymns as he peacefully drew his last breath. They watched in wonder as the wind picked up outside, and could almost see his dear spirit slip out the open window of his room to the freedom that lies beyond. His dog Kenna, ever faithful, stayed by his side until the end.
Just hours before his death, Carl nodded in agreement with the idea that he was a very lucky man. Life’s most precious gift is to die in the company of those who love you, and Carl certainly did that with dignity and grace.
His death was celebrated in the heavens by a powerful storm that knocked power lines down near Breeden Road south of Bloomington. Thunderstorms were among Carl’s favorite things.
Carl was born to Harold (Pappy) and Virginia Breeden on April 5, 1944. He was the sixth child in a family of nine that included three sets of twins and three singles, of which he was one. He was named after a courageous uncle who lost his life as a volunteer on a hospital ship picking up wounded soldiers.
Carl’s life was an exercise in courage as well. He was not afraid to stand up for his beliefs, or to speak out against injustice, even when he was surrounded by those who disagreed with him. Yet he always did so in a way that affirmed the worth and dignity of every person, even those with whom he disagreed. Robert Frost said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self confidence.” Given that standard, Carl was among the most educated of men. He could discuss contentious subjects like religion and politics with confidence in his own truth and respect for another’s.
Carl graduated from Odon High School in 1962, attended Trevecca Nazarene College for one semester, and then returned to Daviess County where he met, courted and married Debra Lemon, the love of his life, on April 8, 1966. He worked at Uniroyal until the factory closed, after which he decided to go into trucking. His wife, Debbie, exhibiting courage equal to his own, learned to drive big rigs and, as a team, they experienced America, made a living, and home schooled their two daughters, April and Vanessa, on the road. They were an adventurous working class family who bravely lived their version of “the American Dream.”
Carl was a Christian who believed that the teachings of Jesus spoke of love rather than judgment, and that forgiveness was the greatest of virtues. He truly lived out his faith, in accordance to his conscience, and took actions that he felt would better humanity. Carl believed that all the people of the earth were one family, and he refused to allow government to define others as his enemies. Through the years, he was a staunch advocate for civil rights and anti-war causes, donating time, money and his relentless voice for peace and justice to both.
He was a 30-year member, and elder of Central Christian Church in Washington, which he was proud to call home and where he always made others feel welcome. All who knew him were blessed. He worked tirelessly for the less fortunate, supporting church programs like Feed My Sheep and the Backpack Program.
Carl was a sports fanatic and faithful Hatchets fan. He could quote the statistics of the Zeller boys by heart. If he had one regret before he died it was that IU had lost three in a row (but he would not want the team to feel bad about it). He would tell them to “just keep playing.” Carl himself played basketball into the last half of his sixth decade, a fact of which he was very proud, and which amazed those who witnessed his lifelong athleticism. He was also an avid golfer and fisherman.
After his truck driving years, Carl worked alongside his wife, Debbie, at Boyd Grain and then at JT Express Trucking. After retirement, Carl still loved to travel and spent the last years of his life with his family, exploring Mexico, flying kites in Florida, walking among the Sequoias, visiting Yosemite, and enjoying life with his wife, children and grandchildren.
We will miss his sense of appreciation for the “Unique,” the “Phenomenal!” and the “Hilarious!” All who knew him will miss reading the amazing facts to be discovered on the little clippings he kept in his wallet. One thing is for certain, Carl never lost his sense of wonder in life.
Carl was preceded in death by his mother and father, and four brothers George, Bob, Clarence and David Lee. He is survived by his wife Debbie, children April Breeden (Crystal L. Peairs) and Vanessa Wagler (Ryan), two “phenomenal” grandchildren, Whitney and Luke and his magnificent mother-in-law, Mildred Lemon. He is also survived by four siblings, Virginia Sears, Cathy Parsons, Darrell and Bill Breeden and a large extended family, including his nephew Dennis Breeden, who was like a son to him.
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.
Both the visitation and memorial service will be held at Central Christian Church, 10 W. Van Trees St. The memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Monday.
Memorial contributions can be made to IU Hospice House or DistinXion in honor of Carl Breeden. Revs. Jim Payton and Bill Breeden will officiate.
Online condolences can be made at gillsince1872.com