Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Arizona Republic: Gilbert political activist Steve Calabrese dies at age 41

The Arizona Republic had a nice write-up about our beloved friend Steve.

by Parker Leavitt - Sept. 27, 2011

Gilbert activist Steve Calabrese died Friday after suffering a heart attack, leaving behind a legacy of volunteerism, humor, courage and civility, friends say.

Calabrese, 41, was second vice chairman in Legislative District 22, which covers much of Gilbert and parts of Mesa and Apache Junction. He was also recently appointed to the town's Water Resources Municipal Property Corp., a board that assists in acquiring land and constructing improvements for government use.

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Calabrese was well-known among conservative activists and contributed to political blogs such as Western Free Press, Sonoran Alliance and Seeing Red AZ.

He worked for numerous political campaigns, including those of Jeff Flake, Kirk Adams, Russell Pearce and Gilbert Town Council members Jordan Ray, Eddie Cook and Victor Petersen.

Calabrese was one of the most influential member's of Ray's "kitchen cabinet" during the council race this year, helping to formulate campaign strategy, Ray said. Calabrese also helped by putting up signs, making phone calls and blogging.

"I'll always remember the passion that he had for his country, the Constitution and his community," Ray said. "And with that passion, he used it to do good things, not just to stir the hornets' nest or argue with people."

Calabrese was dedicated to the Republican Party and had the respect of all sides of the District 22 Republican Committee membership, treasurer Tyler Hudgins said.

Calabrese was elected to the Republican board last year during a bitter power struggle as "tea party" activists sought a greater presence in the district's leadership.

Despite the infighting, Calabrese remained well-liked and respected by all sides, Hudgins said. "He was a guy known for his courage and civility," he said. "He never did anything in secret, always posting in his own name on various political blogs."

Gilbert Mayor John Lewis said Calabrese was open and respectful.

"Steve was known for his ability to be completely open about his opinions and beliefs and incredibly respectful in his delivery and, in return, listening to others to learn about their views," Lewis said.

Ray said even those who disagreed with Calabrese often found him fun to debate.

"He was the kind of person who knew his stuff but at the same time was not real condescending about it," Ray said. "He didn't come off as arrogant about what he knew."

Calabrese had a dry sense of humor that helped keep meetings light, friends say.

Chad Heywood, one of Calabrese's good friends, said he would display his quick wit when answering the phone.

"Steve is famous for answering the phone pretending to be a recording service," Heywood recalled. "He would say when he would answer the phone, 'Thank you for calling political hacks. To launch an attack at Eddie Cook, press 1. To launch an attack at Mesa resident and carpetbagger Jordan Ray, press 2.'"

Donations to Calabrese's memorial fund can be made at Wells Fargo, account No. 6964590373.

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