Steve Stücky (rip)

Steve was abbot of the SFZC from 2007 till 2013 when he died tragically of cancer. Steve was involved with Cuke Archives from the mid nineties when I first started collecting Suzuki transcripts on floppy discs and was sharing them with a few key people in the lineage. From 1993 fall to spring 1996 our homes in San Rafael were a block apart. I'd walk over and tell him what was happening with research on Suzuki, interviews with people, etc, and ask his advice. By the time Steve became Abbot, was in its eighth year and the scope of Cuke Archives (Called the Cucumber Project back then) had kept expanding. He called me and said he wanted Zen Center to support this work. I was skeptical but we tried that. He made it an abbot's project called the Shunryu Suzuki Legacy Project. A lot got done but after half a year I called him and said it's time I went back to being fully independent and he agreed. Later Steve became a subscriber to cuke, donating $50 a month automatically through his bank account and continued being an advisor. When Steve died, I lost a good friend - and so did Cuke Archives. His widow Lane Olson has always been supportive as well. I miss you Steve! - DC

Remembering Myogen Steve StückyA new book (2023)
Remembering Myogen Steve Stücky
by Renshin Bunce
In the years since the death of my teacher, I've noticed that I repeatedly tell the same handful of stories about him. Also, when I'm around San Francisco Zen Center, students approach me to tell me their stories, to tell me how touched they were by him. Some also tell me that they regret not establishing a deeper relationship with him before his too-early death. Now, in the hope of sharing some part of him with Zen students in the future, I offer this book. The first part is my memories, the second is a collection of stories from friends and family, the third is a collection of his teachings in the three months between his diagnosis and death, and the fourth is his obituary. May it serve to benefit the awakening of all beings.

SFZC Sangha News obituary for Steve

Lion's Roar obituary fo Steve with words from Renshin Bunce

Subtle Eye Blog for Steve    Facebook page  

11-19-16 - At Michael Stusser's Osmosis in Freestone on October 6th - in the garden Steve created.

12-30-14 - Remembering Myogen Steve Stucky - That's a link to the SFZC memorial page for Steve and announcement of a memorial ceremony tonight and tomorrow for him. He was a dear friend and former chief abbot of the SF Zen Center who died on New Year's Eve last year. His illness and death came about quickly, disturbingly, a matter of a few months. He was especially well loved and appreciated. He was also a strong supporter of the work represented on this site and He called me right after becoming abbot in February of 2007 to offer his support and set up a meeting. After a half year of this work being regarded as an abbot's project, he came to agree with me that it's best for the cuke archives etc to be independent of any connection to the SFZC other than as a no strings contribution - as this work always has been. Everyone's happier that way. was in no small way an outcome of his persistent encouragement and support. Right up to his illness I sent him regular brief reports and Ccs of key interactions. His personal monthly financial contribution was also significant. Our friendly and social interactions were mainly in prior decades and I remember them fondly. He had that quality Shunryu Suzuki had of being strict with himself in an easy-going way - and tolerant of others. I miss him. - DC

3-23-14 - Video interview with Steve Stucky on Vimeo - thanks Elizabeth Sawyer

2-21-14 - Saying Farewell: A Record of the Funeral for Myogen Steve Stucky - with a link to video of the ceremony.2-13-14 - At Steve Stucky's funeral on February 9th, Edward Brown left the following message from Katrinka and me on the Green Gulch altar with other messages.

Farewell Steve. we will miss your friendship, support, humor, and
teaching in everything you did. Gone way too soon. Too soon but well
done. Gratitude.

comment on this at dchad misc

8-25-14 - Shunryu Suzuki lecture from the 1975 Wind Bell volume 14, issue 1.

In the new presentation of All Shunryu Suzuki lectures, lecture notes, and comments from the SFZC's Wind Bell publication 1961-2012 now combined with links to the complete Wind Bells with cover images added - also links to the page on where audio, verbatim transcripts, other edited version can be found. Today featuring # 61 of 111 selections (approximately). - dc

This is the Wind Bell with Steve Stucky on the cover. I miss Steve and many people miss Steve and the SFZC misses Steve and misses Steve. He was a steady, wise person and a strong supporter of the cuke archives and all this work and made a considerable monthly donation - was a subscriber.- DC

2-08-14 - Funeral for SFZC Central Abbot Steve Stucky set for  3 pm on Sunday, February 9 at Green Gulch Farm. Go to that website to see it live.

1-09-14 - Funeral for SFZC Central Abbot Steve Stucky set for  3 pm on Sunday, February 9 at Green Gulch Farm.

1-07-14 - Steve Stucky Cremation yesterday - from Elizabeth Sawyer

1-05-14 - San Francisco Chronicle obituary for Steve - thanks Steve Tipton

1-03-14 - Steve Stucky Death Poem - thanks Elizabeth Sawyer

1-02-14 - In Memoriam Steve Stucky - from the SFZC

12-31-13 - Farewell Steve Stucky who died at home this morning at 4:03. A life well lived. A man who will be missed. Love and condolences to Lane.

10-10-13 - It is with great sadness that we pass on this news from the SFZC website. SFZC Abbot Steve Stücky Diagnosed with terminal cancer - Letters from President Susan O’Connell and Steve

Update page (on  for SFZC Abbot Steve Stucky who is now in the hospital. All our prayers for Steve's well being and for Lane in this most difficult and challenging time. (on

Messages can be sent to Steve through that page and private messages should be sent to Steve's assistant: Mary Stares<centralabbotassist[at]> - dc

Steve Stucky talk given at Green Gulch Farm on Wednesday October 2. bio page for Steve

Dharma Eye Zen - Steve's group that, among other things, meets in San Rafael Monday eves

Steve's dharma talk page on SFZC site, now (10-18-13) with only a 2008 talk on Tassajara Fire

YouTube from Sky Creek Dharma Center - The Zen Teachings of Suzuki Roshi from Abbot Steve Stucky

Tassajara Fire cuke page - much on Steve here as he was a pivitol character in the 2008 fire at Tassajara that led to the book Fire Monks featured on this page.

Lane Olson is married to Steve.

The Artistry of Mayumi Oda: Images of the Floating World
by Lane Olson

Steve with Dan Welch at Dan's Mt. Seat Ceremony in Crestone - thanks MK

At a gay pride day event in SF

Steve Stucky Death Poem

This human body truly is the entire cosmos

Each breath of mine, is equally one of yours, my darling

This tender abiding in "my" life

Is the fierce glowing fire of inner earth

Linking with all pre-phenomena

Flashing to the distant horizon

From "right here now" to "just this"

Now the horizon itself

Drops away—






 - thanks Elizabeth Sawyer

Steve Stücky, abbot at S.F. Zen Center, dies

By Stephanie Lee

San Francisco Chronicle - January 2, 2014

Steve Stücky, an abbot at the San Francisco Zen Center who once risked his life to help defend a temple from a wildfire, died New Year's Eve at his Rohnert Park home after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 67.

As the Zen Center's central abbot since 2010, Mr. Stücky oversaw a large community of monks and other Zen students at the organization's locations in San Francisco, Marin and the Ventana Wilderness, east of Big Sur. Hours after his death, each temple rang the temple bell 108 times, a number that in Buddhism symbolizes the banishing of worldly desires and worries.

Diagnosed in September with stage four pancreatic cancer, Mr. Stücky endured a lot of pain and stepped down from his role as central abbot in December. Yet the wisdom that endeared him to many remained intact in his final days. In one of his last conversations with Susan O'Connell, the president of the Zen Center, he reminded her of the importance of sticking to decisions that were necessary yet painful.

"He was actually someone who was extremely kind, but also very strong and wise and willing to have difficult conversations," O'Connell said.

Born in Chicago, Stücky grew up in Kansas, according to biographical information provided by the Zen Center. His interest in Buddhism took root in 1971, when a friend gave him a book about Zen practices. The following year, he hitchhiked to San Francisco and started sleeping in Golden Gate Park in order to go to meditation at the Zen Center.

There he stayed and studied for eight years. By the 1980s, he had a family, and he supported them for two decades as a landscape designer.

He temporarily left the Zen Center but continued to be active in the Buddhist community, co-leading a meditation group at San Quentin State Prison and serving as board president of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association in North America. He returned to the Zen Center as a co-abbot in 2007.

His dedication was perhaps most visibly challenged on July 9, 2008, when a giant wildfire threatened to overtake the Zen Center's monastery at the former resort of Tassajara Hot Springs near Big Sur. All the residents left at the urging of firefighters, but Mr. Stücky and four other monks stayed and ended up keeping the flames at bay.

Colleen Morton Busch interviewed Mr. Stücky for her book about the event, "Fire Monks." "It was really Steve that was the turning point" she recalled. "But he didn't speak about that moment in any kind of dramatic or self-important way. He was completely humble about it and just felt like he was making a necessary decision in that moment."

Mr. Stücky is survived by his wife, Lane Olson; his son, James Asher; daughters Hannah Dominguez and Robin Williams; and four grandchildren. A funeral service will be held soon at the Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm. The family is accepting donations made to the Zen


 Stephanie M. Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff  slee@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @stephaniemle

Steve Stucky Cremation from Elizabeth Sawyer

Dear Family, Friends, and Sangha Members,

Just returned from the cremation of beloved friend and my heart teacher Myogen Steve Stucky which was held at Pleasant Hills Mortuary in Sebastopol at 10 am.  It was three years ago January that we attended to the cremation of Darlene Cohen (at the same place).  Many of the same people were present.

The ceremony was satisfying and powerful as we chanted and offered incense/flowers/herbs, and lavender buds that Wendy Johnson brought from Steve's own gardens to offer to the body in the plain pine box that Steve requested.  Some of us stayed in the rectory while family, disciples, and close friends accompanied the body in a procession chanting "May you be happy, may you find peace" over and over again to Steve on the way to the crematorium. 

Steve's wife Lane Olson and James, Hannah, and Robin (Steve's children) put their hands on one another's hands and pushed the button on the oven to start the process of burning the body "back stage".  Then we recessed back to the rectory and ended the ceremony and said our good byes as we were gently shooed out to make room for the next funeral!

Steve's teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman led the ceremony in the rectory and Linda Ruth Cutts The next Central Abbess led the procession and ceremony at the crematorium.  In the beginning of the ceremony Steve's Brother spoke as did Lane's sister, and two of Steve's disciples Ren Shin Bunch and me (Elizabeth).  A note from Victoria Austin was read. 

Then everyone offered chip incense of the flowers and herbage to the body in the casket as we chanted the Ennmei Juku Kannon Gyo over and over again.

Ken was the doan (chant leader with bell and small wooden drum on a stick).  Mary Stares (Steve's assistant) and Chris Fortin bookended the procession with bells on a stick we call inkins.  Bruce Fortin was the jisha (attendant) for Mel during the offerings at the altar.

There will be a public ceremony at Green Gulch Farm at a later date TBA.

Elizabeth Sawyer

Lion's Roar obituary for Steve

Myogen Steve Stucky (1946-2013)

BY | DECEMBER 31, 2013

Myogen Steve Stucky, former abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, passed away this morning, just a few months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Our thoughts and our condolences go out to his family, his students, and everyone in the SFZC community.

On his passing, zazen was held at San Francisco Zen Center in his memory while the the bell was rung 108 times. His body has been prepared for cremation, at his request, clothed in a robe recently sewn for him by his friends. An account by his son, James Stucky, of his final hours, as well as the dedication of merit read at SFZC, can be found here.

Many thanks to Renshin Bunce, who offers the following remembrance of her teacher:

Steve and Rensin - photo by Shundo Haye

My teacher Myogen was only 67 when he received his diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer, and had just agreed to serve an additional three years — beyond the initial seven which he was completing — as Central Abbot of San Francisco Zen Center.

Two days after he learned that he only had months to live, he gave the regular Wednesday night talk at Green Gulch Farm.  The talk he gave is titled “Gratitude.”  Listening to him, I was of course reminded of the way he taught us to meet the fire that threatened to destroy Tassajara, our monastery in the Ventana Wilderness, in 2008. He didn’t talk about dominating it or fighting it; he talked about meeting it and investigating it and even learning from it.  He faced death in the same way that he faced life.

I heard repeatedly that no one expected him to be the first of his generation to die.  He was so big and strong and dependable.   Six weeks after we received the shocking news, I had a chance to ask him “What shall I tell students in the future when they ask me about your dharma?”  He was by this time quite sick and taking many drugs, but he, as always, took a moment to think about my question, and then gave me a straight answer.  He said,  “Endless inquiry.  Not turning away from reality, and when you do turn away from reality —  stop, and resume endless inquiry.”

He was humble, and his trust in Buddha Nature, and his love in talking about the dharma, was unstoppable.  Steve was never one of those guys who had to prove his point or get the last word.  In our nearly 20 years of relationship, he usually stood back and gave me enough rope to hang myself, and then, when I asked, stepped in to help me make sense of my experience.  He never tried to control me, he never criticized, and rarely even told me what to do.  He just watched, and loved.

He was a safe place.  He knew how to take care of the secret and tender parts.  When I had his attention, I had it completely.  He wasn’t a Pollyanna or a goody goody and never pretended to be one; he was a whole person, but one who had learned to control his mind.  He was able to see the good in everyone because he could see the Buddha Nature in everyone.

We went through a number of ceremonies at his home in the weeks following his diagnosis, ceremonies that became urgent as the disease progressed.  When he gave transmission to my dharma sister Koshin Christine Palmer, he handed his ritual implements over to her and spoke of his impending death.  Because he trained me so well, I could sincerely tell him that I now understood that there is no death, and that he will continue to live in the heart/minds of his students long after his body is gone.

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