In Memory of Steve Hesse, Long Time Co-leader of the Ithaca Hikers

Those of you who are on the email list know by now that Steve Hesse, the former co-leader of Ithaca Hikers for sixteen years, passed away on Monday after an illness.

I spoke to Susan on Tuesday. She reports that there will be no services. Steve is being cremated and Susan will be interring the ashes with a tree she is planting. Given Steves years of enjoying the groups hikes on our many miles of area trails, something tells me that he would enjoy that very much.

Susan requests that any donations in Steves memory be made to either the Cayuga Trails Club or Hospicecare.

I came into the group just a few short years ago, well into Steve and Susans tenure as group leaders. Many of the “ Steve-isms”…the frequent  “YO!” he would bellow out to the group, the cantankerous complaining to hikers as he would herd us all together for a photo, or stop us in position so he could get his “ actions shots”…were well established by the time I started sharing a footpath with the Ithaca Hikers. I have many fond memories of hiking with Steve on some trail, somewhere in the conga line of hikers that was stretched out behind Susan who was invariably at the head of the pack. Our conversations covered a wide range of topics, rarely in any predictable orderly fashion. Conversations on hikes could be like that.

Steve and Susan took a casual group of friends who would meet for an occasional and informal exploration of local trails  ( see illustrated history of the Ithaca Hikers – ithacahikers ) and slowly expanded the nascent groups activities to regular once weekly hikes, then to twice a week and finally three regular, well-planned and dependable hikes a week by the time they stepped away from their leadership responsibilities. Under the Hesse’s leadership the group not only hiked; its members frequently opened their doors to the rest of the group for social events, or came together for social gatherings in public venues. Steve and Susan were instrumental in setting up the Ithaca Hikers website that we still use today. Before they stepped down the Hesse’s continued to steer the group through the early dark days of Covid, when hiking with a few friends in the outdoors became the sole social outlet available to many of us. When they passed the hike planning duties over to me Steve and Susan made sure to accompany me on many of the early hikes I led to ensure that I was comfortable with the route we would be taking. It would have been equally as easy for them to simply hand over the group to me and run for the door, but they didn’t do that.

I am sure that there are many area hikers with their own personal memories of Steve in his tenure as group co-leader. If you would like to send me stories of your recollections of Steve, we will include them in a post on the website

I wont be posting Susans address, phone number or email publicly on the website. If any past or present members of the hiking community need that information, please reach out to me privately.

Jim R