STEVEN K. OMI, 1957-1994
Steven Katsu Omi was born in Berkeley, California on April 18, 1957, the youngest of five children (two girls, three boys) in the Rev. Frank Omi family. As a youth, he played numerous sports, excelling in gymnastics at the local YMCA. After graduation from high school in Alhambra (an LA suburb), he earned an athletic scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley where he lettered four years in gymnastics while earning Phi Beta Kappa honors in bioresource science.
Steve went on to earn an MS and PhD in forest sciences at Oregon State University, then moved to Coeur d’Alene where he developed a program in research quality control for the USDA Forest Service tree nursery. During his short life he was featured twice in Sports Illustrated (Faces in the Crowd), initially as a 9-year old gymnast and twelve years later as an active cyclist, swimmer, Nordic skier, and triathlete in Corvallis.
Those who knew Steve best remember his inspirational leadership by example, his intelligence, his sense of responsibility, and loyalty. He wasn’t talkative but he let out a memorable gut-laugh when his funny bone was tickled. He loved to pull minor pranks, like when he enticed a group of college friends to dress up in suits for a local talent show, and lip synch to the tunes of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” – topped off with an unexpected back-flip which surprised those who were unaware of his background as a gymnast.
After his death in 1994 due to cancer, trees were planted in his honor on the Oregon StateUniversity campus, at the Forest Service nursery in Coeur d’Alene, and in Albuquerque, New Mexico – living memorials for those whose lives he touched. The Steve Omi Open Water Memorial Swim and scholarship fund provides another means to honor his life and his values.
Submitted by Philip and Nikki Omi, July 2003