In Loving Memory of Steve Corrigan, Forever A Part of Our Bookstore Family

It saddens us to share with you that on June 29th, The Booksellers lost someone very dear to our hearts, Steve Corrigan. I know I speak for all past and present booksellers when I say working at this store is more than being a staff member, it’s about becoming a part of a book-loving family. Having been with us since the beginning, Steve was a vital part of that family and losing him is one of the hardest trail we as a store have faced. Below, we’d like to share some memories and words from our booksellers throughout the years. As our customers of over 29 years, we consider you all our family as well, and we want to include you in our dedication and give you an opportunity to share in our remembrance, as families do.

Steve was a great manager, lover of books, and getting things done right the first time. He taught me to pull the books to the edge of the shelf so there would be less dust, and he “did not suffer fools gladly”. That’s when you would see Steve get his Irish up! He also was very helpful in assisting me with my graduate school application, with a letter of reference he was more than happy to write for me. He thought teaching would be a great fit for me. As I prepare to start my first teaching job, I will always remember Steve Corrigan with fondness, affection, and appreciation. — Patty (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1999)

Steve was the first person I met at The Booksellers. He interviewed me. We sometimes had lunch at the same time. He often ate cereal and I would bug him about poetry, and I mean poetry I had written. He read one of my poems and said “This is pretty,but why should I care?” It was brutal but he was right. “You have to make the reader care,” he added. Steve told me the truth that day. I respected him for it. To this day when I am working on a poem, story, or essay, I pause and ask myself “Why should anyone care?”  And I always think of Steve. — Kat (Became part of our bookstore family in 2011)

Dear Steve,
I am very grateful for your friendship over 12 years. Your compassion and conversation during losses in my family will never be forgotten. My heart is with your family and friends.
Pat (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2002)

We at the Booksellers have recently lost a dear friend and colleague, Steve Corrigan, to cancer. He was a member of our original staff, beginning his bookselling career in Memphis in January of 1985. Over the years, Steve wore many hats. He was our first inventory manager, our first buyer, and the man who conducted our first interviews.

In other words, he was often the first face many of us saw before joining the Bookseller family. In many ways, he was a living, breathing history of both our store and of independent bookselling itself. We will miss his wit, his passion, his fondness for the underdog, and his kind-hearted discipline. He helped to make us what we are. And then strived to make us even better.

My personal friendship with Steve dates back to those early icy mornings in January, 1985. We probably could not have been more different in temperament but more perfectly aligned in purpose. Perhaps the often quoted words of one of his favorite authors, Albert Camus, sums up our relationship best:

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” — Eddie Burton (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1985)

There’s not much I can say about Steve that hasn’t been said already, and much more eloquently. So I made a list instead. Things I will always remember about Steve Corrigan: He didn’t believe in wasting time – he was always working, or reading, or eating (always Wheaties!), or taking a walk. When there was a big event at the store, you always wanted him there, because things always ran smoothly when he was around. He would never ask you to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. I lost count of the number of times he cleaned up unspeakable messes in the restrooms; how many managers do that? For a little while we had a crew of night shelvers, which Steve led, and it was great. You could work in comfortable silence, or you could talk with him about anything. He could be excruciatingly honest. But he was never condescending, malicious, or cruel. He was incredibly kind to me when my father passed away unexpectedly, and it meant more to me than I was ever able to express to him. He was a gentleman and a scholar, devoted to his family, and he will live on in the community of booksellers that he mentored.  — Kori (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1997)

I first met Steve as a 19-year-old kid looking for a job nerding it up in a bookstore. He was quick to inform me, as he informed everyone he ever interviewed, that it is NOT easy work! Boy, was he right! I’m so grateful I passed muster during the strict (and legendary!) Steve Corrigan first interview–he had the most amazing instinct about who would fit well in the bookstore–he could always read people so well!!

Over the past 16 years, Steve became a mentor, a friend, my fellow curmudgeon, and there has never been a time when I didn’t feel smarter for having talked to him. I admired not only his intelligence, but his dedication to supporting what is right and just, his incredible work ethic, and his quick wit and phenomenal sense of humor (heavy on the snark!). A conversation with Steve could ran the gamut from poetic and insightful to heated and intense, to downright hilarious. My only regret is that we didn’t get to have more conversations. I am STILL learning things about this guy!! How did we have endless conversations about obscure jazz artists, but never discuss our mutual fondness for Chopin? How did I not know that he also played piano and guitar?

Simply put, Steve was a treasure. A true bookseller’s bookseller with a huge heart for not only the business, but for his bookstore family. He was was one of the great patriarchs of this store, and he will be forever missed…I’ll do my best to make him proud. — Nicole (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1998)

Steve was such a kind man. If I ever needed anything or had a question he would do it or find out. He was a passionate booskeller. I loved his energy. He did not suffer fools and I respected that as well. —Terribeth (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2003)

When I think of Steve Corrigan, I think of his half smile and particular gait, the way he wafted through the shelves of the bookstore like a jungle cat hunting prey. He knew books, and he knew people, but best of all, he knew book people. We had so many conversations together, about how he ate cereal almost every night for dinner, his love of Richard Price novels, and how Rabbit, Run is OBVIOUSLY a 300 page cautionary tale about following Jack Kerouac’s irresponsible example. No matter what I was reading, what abstraction I was pondering, I always looked forward to an info desk shift with Steve so we could philosophize together, we could dissect literature for all the best pieces, and most of all, so we could laugh together. I left a piece of my heart in the store when I left bookselling, and when I turn my memory back to find it, Steve is always there, along with so many of the special people who touched my life, and touched the lives of others who happened through the store. Steve wasn’t just a special coworker, or a special bookseller, or a special cereal-eater. Steve was just special, and I will miss him. — Marisa (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2005)

I first met Steve Corrigan upon interviewing for my position at the Booksellers. As a budding English Major, a part-time job in a bookstore (with the reputation of Davis-Kidd) was a dream too good to be true; like a child realizing that Candyland was, in fact, real. When he interviewed me, I detected that he viewed my childish enthusiasm with suspicion… well, he plainly tried to talk me out of the job. Amidst my hazy-eyed ravings of the wonderful work atmosphere of the store, he reminded me that book-selling was hard work.

Few people recognize that it takes the intense efforts of an entire staff in order to maintain the bookstore and keep it a safe, communal, and above all tranquil place. I certainly didn’t know, but Steve had a lifetime of book-selling experience under his belt. He worked seriously and proudly. When I got the job, I believe he regarded me with less skepticism, and I was keen to show him (and everyone else) that I had what it takes to be one of this elite team.

To me, Steve appeared very aloof and professional. He was the token elder bookseller (and we have a few), one whose knowledge of the intricacies of the business kept the store running like clockwork; with the dignity of words and reading siphoned in his veins! Although he didn’t suffer foolishness, he did find pleasure is simple things. I will always recall him with great fondness as he constantly teased me about my eclectic lunches that any poor college kid would resort to. As a garner of hats, I will miss the familiar provoking question of “Is your head cold?”

With honor, I worked with Steve for only a few months before he fell ill. In the months that followed Steve taught me a lot more about life than book-selling. First, never underestimate people and how they will surprise you. Upon first glance, I never expected to see the ripe wisdom and extensive kindness under the character of this grumpy bookseller. I’m proud that I could call him a friend (as we all know those come in many shapes and sizes, much alike books). Second, remember that time is not on our side. I regret that before his passing, and he passed far too soon with summoned bravery and endurance that I will never know the depth of, I never got to share with him my thoughts on his favorite book Siddhartha. I had been endeavoring to read it since he left the store. In the week of his passing, I had finished it. As trite as it sounds, my heart has never felt so full and so empty at the same time.

In Memoriam, Steve reminds me that the books that people love, so often teach us more of the lover than any writer or even the very contents itself. The distinct voice and profound essence of the novel, I will always attribute to him. I hope I can grow to be more like him: to expect more from others than they think is possible, to not “judge a book by its cover,” to never neglect the knowledge of time’s erosivity, and to read.

-To read the books of my favorite people-

As a book lover, I repeatedly find the words in books that escape me when I am speaking with people. Steve and I shared few words but alongside Hermann Hesse, I feel like we shared enough. Hermann Hesse wrote, “Not in his speech, not in his thoughts, I see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life.”

Steve was great. He was the best of us. — Corinne (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2012)

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2 Responses to In Loving Memory of Steve Corrigan, Forever A Part of Our Bookstore Family

  1. Steve O'Dell says:

    Steve Corrigan is one of the finest men I have ever known. This news saddens me but to think of Steve makes me smile. He was a the man who made me understand the true meaning of commitment. He was a walker and a true thinker. My wife and I used to the close with Steve at Davis-Kidd and he was always witty. No matter what the subject, Steve was a fountain of knowledge without being a know-it-all. He was a groomsman in our wedding and will forever be a part of our family. Thanks Steve-you are one of a kind and the world was lucky to have you visit for a while….Steve O’Dell

  2. Kate McCune says:

    This is a beautiful tribute to one of my generation’s great booksellers. I so valued the relationship we shared around our reading. It’s lovely to see how many lives he touched.

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