Stephen Joseph Ortega

stephen ortega

Stephen Joseph Ortega October 30, 1982 - November 19, 2011 The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Captain America ... they were iconic figures to a man who began collecting action figures and comic books when he was just a boy. Their stories are of heroes - sometimes changing their own biological makeup - who used their strength to fend off darkness in the world. Today, we reflect on the life of that man, Stephen Joseph Ortega, who was a superhero to us all. He passed away Nov. 19, 2011. Stephen had been a fighter long before he became aware of Marvel comic characters. From Day 1 he was strong-willed. On the date of his birth, October 30, 1982, he really just didn't want to come out and was delivered via caesarean at St. Luke's Hospital to Debra and Joseph Ortega. Within the first two days of his life, it was discovered that he had a heart problem and he held strong, even as a baby, while for three weeks in the hospital, doctors tried to come up with answers to his congenital health challenges. After three weeks, his mom, Debbie (an advocate throughout his life on more than just the medical issues) determined it was time to give Stephen a little more emotional care. She even bent some rules so she could hold and breast feed him and ensure his release from Children's Hospital. When he was 1 year old, he had a miracle surgery to repair his heart. During his stay at the hospital, he was a "little cranky" because he couldn't have any food. He was very sad and determined, he stood up at the little crib, looking through the bars, with a look on his face as though to say, "Where's my food?" As he grew older, we all came to recognize that same crankiness over food-Steve was a person who appreciated good food and a lot of it, especially if it was Auntie Kathy's cheese enchiladas, sushi, or a perfectly-cooked steak. But that first major surgery was a success, and it brought new meaning to the entire family that Stephen was healthy. The family celebrated. Because he was born the day before Halloween, costumes were a part of nearly every birthday party. People showed up in drag, dressed as scarecrows, cats, Crayolas, jelly beans, witches.... It was Grandpa Ortega, however, who would tease him, threatening that he was too old to dress up in a silly costume. But Stephen's worries would be erased when Grandpa would show up in the most elaborate costumes that he'd whipped together. Holidays, celebrations and family were immensely important to Stephen. Grandma Jeanne Resler got one of the first peeks at precious Steve after his mother got him out of the hospital, three weeks after his birth. On his mom's side, there was Aunts Pam, Sandy, and Diane. On his dad's side, there was Aunts Kathy and Trina and Uncle Ed. He had many cousins on both sides, too. Perhaps no other place was more important in his growing years than his Grandma and Grandpa Ortega's house in north Denver, which became a second home for both him and his sister, Stephanie. Grandma's house was an amusement park. They got to play. They learned life lessons. She spoiled them with love and gave them warm tortillas right off the griddle. It was a comfortable place for Stephen, even to the point where he felt okay to get a little dressed up now and again. She indulged them, but not to excess. She worried every time he would make a run on his Big Wheel down the crooked flagstone path, launching off the curb onto the asphalt. He was a calculated risk-taker. It was one of the reasons he came to love trips to Central City with the Tran family and outings to Las Vegas with his wife Linda or less responsible friends and family, such as "Good" Uncle Rob, who in fact ended up a sloppy drunk drooling over soft piano music at a bar-perfect fodder for Stephen, a witty person with a remarkable sense of humor. Having a good time was essential for Stephen. He could out-drink and out-eat most of the men twice his weight. Whether an olive-eating contest with Uncle Marty or a hot dog-eating contest with his niece, Taylor, he accepted the challenge. He knew how to party; he was good at making the most out of the times he felt well. He valued life and what it gave him in terms of family celebrations, the holidays, and his beloved collections, whether it be of sunglasses, action figures, watches, or shoes. He had a great sense of style. After graduating from Denver North High School in 2001, Stephen pursued another hobby: the study of fine art at Metropolitan State College in Denver. His artwork continued to be an important means of expression for Steve, as reflected in his mixed-media work containing imagery of the heart, rib cages, and his eyes, among his other work that revolved around current events and politics. College was interrupted in 2005, when Stephen was diagnosed with a rare and complicated condition known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This new information helped explain why Steve had needed all the previous surgeries that had always baffled doctors. That was also the year when Stephen and his mom; dad; sister; Linda (his new girlfriend at the time); and three aunts took a trip to Michigan where another heart surgery was performed. Like all of the other years before, he went in fighting, with his head tall, and came out winning. In typical Steve fashion, he carried on with life as though he had not undergone a major medical event. The surgery gave all of us hope for a brighter future, and a brighter future transpired: He had fallen in love with Linda Tran. His contagious wide grin that everyone knew and loved got even bigger. Their first meeting was at Cherry Creek Mall on November 30, 2003. They "chatted" it up before he was able to get Linda to go on a date with him. Linda was steadfast in her stance that he was too young for her. But he knew what he wanted, and our fighter didn't give up. They enjoyed a first date at an Italian restaurant named Amici's. After a lovely dinner he went to pay with his credit card but realized that they did not accept credit cards. So Linda was stiffed with the bill. But this angel gave Steve a second chance, and he took her for her first-ever sushi dinner on their second date. They traveled together and played together - walking through water fountains in Florida and placing bets in Vegas. They grew together and learned together - Linda by his side during the Michigan heart surgery and every emergency since. And Stephen was unyielding in his concern for Linda, evening keeping his wit upon being admitted to the University of Colorado Hospital a couple of weeks ago. He challenged her to a "Would You Rather" dare: Would you rather lick the floor or the side of the bed? He picked the floor because at least it would have gotten cleaned on a regular basis by the janitorial staff. After the 2005 heart surgery, his life had taken another turn for the best. He focused more intently on a career in retail sales management and started making future plans. He proposed to Linda on November 30, 2006, exactly three years to the day of their first encounter. She said "Yes." The Tran family welcomed him, and he went to all of the different family events with Linda. Although not a Buddhist himself, he would go with the family to the temple. Everyone knew his name, and he stood out at the Tran family celebrations, and he liked that fact. Because on the rare occasion when another white guy showed up, he would quip: "I thought I was supposed to be the only white guy." Their love was important for another reason-it opened the door to another culture for the Ortega and Resler families. Bringing Linda into his life enriched not only his but ours as well. We, too, have fallen in love with her. 2007 was a very special year for Stephen: He earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix; he celebrated his sister's college graduation in Hawaii; he purchased a house with Linda in the spring. He married Linda Tran that summer, on September 16, 2007, in Buddhist tradition at the Tran family home in Northglenn. He adored Linda and always wanted to buy her nice things, such as a new car, jewelry, or phones. She introduced him to watches, which in turn led him to buying the big square silver one she admittedly calls "ugly." He told her he always wanted them to be comfortable. He was giving, devoted, and thoughtful. Above all, they had each other. An event on September 2 of this year made us all realize that - no matter how big Stephen's heart was in terms of devotion and love - it was getting weaker physically. He got in a serious car accident, and although doctors had been attempting to do their best, his health worsened. His recent visit to University Hospital originally held hope that a heart transplant would save him, but before we would get an answer, his fight was over. We were blessed with his physical presence for 29 years and can easily list so many positive qualities of a man who loved life: Precious Resilient Strong Innocent Genuine Loyal Responsible Warrior Opinionated Artistic Sarcastic Witty Friend All of what Stephen went through is what made him so special. It gave him strength and conviction. It made him value what he had. Yes, he was just like you and me - an individual who loved, laughed, cried and lived out his dream with a person he was devoted to. But his courage set him apart and will now give us the strength to persevere. Stephen J. Ortega was a superhero. Stephen is survived by his wife Linda Tran; mother Debra Zinke; father Joseph O. Ortega Jr.; sister Stephanie Ortega; mother-in-law Thuy Train; father-in-law Tinh Tran; brother-in-laws, Joey and Jacky (Jean) Tran; sister-in-law Holly (Tony) Train; niece Taylor Tran; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. He is preceded in death by grandmother Nora Ortega; grandfather Joseph O. Ortega Sr.; and grandmother Jeanne Resler. An honoring of Stephen's life will be at 10:00 a.m. Friday, November 25, 2011, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2100 N. Wadsworth Blvd. Burial will be at Mt. Olivet. A reception to celebrate his life will follow at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Gifts can be made at

Bethlehem Lutheran Church
2100 Wadsworth Blvd
Lakewood, CO

Friday, November 25, 2011
10:00 AM 11/25/2011 10:00:00 AM
Bethlehem Lutheran Church

2100 Wadsworth Blvd
Lakewood, CO 80214

Please for additional information about Stephen, and for information regarding to suggested Memorial Donations.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church
2100 Wadsworth Blvd Lakewood 80214 CO
United States

Mt. Olivet Cemetery Final Resting Place

12801 W. 44th Ave.
Wheat Ridgde, CO 80033

12801 W. 44th Ave. Wheat Ridgde 80033 CO
United States

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