Cover photo for Stephen William Penttila's Obituary
Stephen William Penttila Profile Photo
1946 Stephen 2021

Stephen William Penttila

April 9, 1946 — July 8, 2021

Stephen William Penttila was born on April 9th, 1946 in Aberdeen, Washington to Eric and Aino Eleanora Penttila. He was the second oldest of six kids. His childhood centered on a passion for sports, and he loved going on his family camping trips to Sun Lakes as well as trips to the Hood Canal. In his high school years, he played football, baseball, and basketball. In his senior year, he won the Coaches Award for Football, which recognized his leadership, hard work, determination, commitment, and team spirit. These traits served as a template for the way that Steve lived his life.

Steve’s life embraced the spirit of laughter, the essence of hard work, and a deep devotion to his family. His generosity was legendary amongst family and friends. His dry wit coupled with an arched eyebrow could turn any event into laughter. He met his life head-on, earning him the nickname of the “Flying Finn” by his beloved “R” Gang softball team due to his head-first slides. His nickname was later shortened to Finn, representing his Finnish heritage which he took great pride in.

He met his future wife, Cheri Heider, in 1964. She and her friend were on their way to a laundromat when their car caught on fire. Steve and his friend rescued the two girls and drove them back to their campsite. Steve and Cheri went down to the beach together, sat down at the campfire, and looked at a full moon. This was the first of many dates they would have together.

After dating Cheri a little over a year, Steve enlisted in the Air Force and went through basic training. He was sent to Great Falls, MT, and missed Cheri so much that he wrote her a letter asking her to marry him. Meanwhile, he also wrote a separate letter to her father seeking his permission to marry his daughter. Cheri accepted his proposal and Steve bought her a ring in Great Falls, Montana which he promptly mailed to her.

The couple married on September 10th, 1966. They spent their first year in Great Falls, MT, eventually moving to Puerto Rico in 1967. The couple lived in Puerto Rico for two years where Steve worked as a military police officer. In 1970, they bought their first home in Seattle, Washington. Their daughter Shelly was born on May 3rd, 1971, and their son Scott was born three years later on March 22nd, 1974. The couple thrived in their role as parents.

In 1977, the couple built a custom home on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Steve joined a local softball team, the “R” gang, where they met lifelong friends. He was the “neighborhood” dad and was loved by all the kids. They admired his willingness to play baseball in the backyard, shoot baskets in the front driveway, and he was renowned for his cannonball plunges into the neighborhood pool. The family was highly competitive and enjoyed water fights which escalated from super soaker water guns outside the house to a garden hose being aimed inside the home’s front door and up the entryway stairs. The kids love of sports developed at a young age, and they knew they could count on Steve and Cheri to tirelessly get them to their respective events, and cheer them on loudly from the sidelines. Both of his children fondly recall their dad as being “a big kid at heart.”

The family loved to travel. Whenever they had a spare moment, they’d pack up and go on vacation. Cannon Beach, Carmel by The Sea and Lake Chelan were favorite destinations. The family enjoyed watching sunsets, making bonfires and telling stories.

In the early ’70s, Steve started working for the Washington State Ferries. He began his career in an entry level position, eventually working his way up to captain. He dedicated nearly thirty years to Washington State Ferries before he retired in October 2000. Shelly bad loved spending time with their dad on his job. He showed them how to steer the boat, allowed their friends to tour the captains' quarters, and gave them fists full of quarters to play video games on the boat.

In his retirement years, he and Cheri achieved their dream of buying a small RV to tour the US in. He traveled to over 40 states with his beloved wife Cheri, taking her to quilting shows and stopping along the way to see friends and family. The couple dodged storms, encountered black skies, and missed a shuttle launch in Florida due to inclement weather.

Steve loved being a grandpa. His first grandchild, Amanda, was born in October of 1996. She has fond memories of her grandpa taking her to his friend Al’s house while her grandma did her quilting, and grabbing some fish and chips afterward at a local restaurant. Christmas was memorable for her as well; he loved having his family altogether. She was also happy to see him in the stands at her basketball games and school plays. His second grandchild, Landon, was born in May of 2012. Landon has great memories of time he shared with his grandpa, including a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim in which they held hands and laughed together at the amusement park, rode Landon’s favorite ride at cars land, and rode on grandpa’s lap in his wheelchair as they smiled together. Grandpa also always gave the best bear hugs and loved to rub Landons head with a big “Hi Landon!” Another fond memory would be the time he was able to see Landon at his tee-ball games. He will always cherish the time they spent together. His third grandchild, Dylan, was born in November of 2020. Although COVID took away time Dylan was able to spend with his grandpa, the family is thankful that he got to hold him and meet him after he was born. He will always be thankful of this time, and the family will continue to share special memories with him throughout his lifetime to get to know his grandpa.

Throughout his life, Steve continued his passion for sports by following the Seahawks, the Mariners, and the University of Washington Huskies. Later in life, he even embraced the Huskies rival team, the Washington State University Cougars, when his granddaughter Amanda attended WSU. He would root for WSU, except for when they played against his beloved Huskies! He routinely played golf with his son-in-law, Mark, and various friends in Washington and California. In 2014, Steve and Mark teamed up to fulfill a lifelong dream of golfing at Pebble Beach in California. When Steve wasn’t golfing, he explored astronomy, studied history, and loved to watch old time television shows.

When his beloved wife Cheri passed away on February 28, 2012, Steve chose to sell his home and RV he and Cheri purchased to get a larger RV he could live in. He wanted to be a “snowbird”, spending winters in California near Scott, wife Chrissy, and newborn grandson Landon, and summers in Washington near Shelly, husband Mark, and Amanda. Shelly loved to keep him busy during the summer months, finding projects for him to work on around the house. Steve easily combined his love for family time and travel.

The retired captain saw no reason to cruise the seas again, but changed his mind and booked an Alaskan cruise. He delighted in planning the trip, and gathered family and friends for the experience of a lifetime. In addition, he and his family visited Lake Chelan yearly to spend time with his extended family. Chelan visits entailed daytime swims, nightly family dinners, and endless laughs and conversations out on the deck. He traveled to Maui, cruised to the Caribbean (which included his first trip back to Puerto Rico since he had been stationed there), Seattle Mariners spring training in Arizona, and Cannon Beach. His family inherited his travel bug, and were always willing to spend time together, enjoying each other’s company.

In 2021, Steve moved briefly back to Bainbridge Island, WA. Despite battling cancer, he continued to make his family laugh. He was close to making his annual pilgrimage to Lake Chelan when he passed away on Thursday, July 8th, 2021. Thankfully, many of his loved ones were able to travel to him to say goodbye.

Steve is survived by his daughter Shelly Chamberlin, son-in-law Mark Chamberlin, and granddaughter Amanda Griffin. He is survived by his son Scott Penttila, daughter-in-law Chrissy Penttila, and grandsons Landon and Dylan. His surviving siblings are Eric (Sharon) Penttila of Ocean Shores, WA, Lauri Penttila of Aberdeen, WA, Mary (Mike) Hansen of Tigard, OR, Christine (Tom) Maynard of Roanoke, VA, and countless nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Cheri, brother Phil Penttila, and parents Eric and Eleanora Penttila.


Arrangements are entrusted to the Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, WA

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