Last week Stillwater and the entire Greater Stillwater Area lost a wonderful person with the passing of Scott Zahren, former Chamber board member (2005-2011), local event promoter, executive director of Hope House and volunteer for many nonprofit efforts.
As secretary of the Chamber’s Downtown Revitalization Coalition, Scott’s only goal was to see that downtown reach its full potential. He was a tireless promoter of all things downtown.
For those who met Scott for the first time, they weren’t quite sure what to make of his unique style and colorful phraseology. I was subject to the same impression some 15 years ago. There was an unmistakable uniqueness about Scott that set him apart from the rest.
Scott’s signature style could make new would-be friends wonder what he was about, what made him tick, ultimately what made him so special. Only time would answer those questions.
For the hundreds of those who were fortunate enough to discover those answers, we are profoundly saddened by his passing and the huge void it has created in our lives and in this community.
When you got Scott, you got all of him. You couldn’t separate Scott. He was all or nothing. His full-length raccoon coat, saddle shoes, flamboyant spectacles, fedora, and ever-present mastering of a few words in the English language. But as is so often said, his bark was worse than his bite.
Those who learned the answers to those questions quickly saw through the persona and found a person who was passionate about a better future. That meant a better future for those who were subject to an unfortunate health condition that compromised their own existence. No, Scott wasn’t going to let that go without a fight. He fought for those who were experiencing any number of situations. He gave his time and devotion to a wide range of social challenges that he never saw as problems, but opportunities.
Once you spent any time with Scott, you quickly realized he was a man of substance. Something very rare these days. He wasn’t afraid of tackling something that was unpopular, unknown or uncomfortable. Scott knew where he stood. His devotion to causes silently challenged you, by making you wonder were you stood. That was his gift. Making us reflect on what is important. That raccoon coat, glasses and saddle shoes was just his way of drawing you into his world, a world of compassion and vision.
Yes, all of us who got to know Scott were drawn in and we quickly learned more about ourselves than any psychotherapist could ever hope to uncover. Scott was without question, one-of-a-kind. His presence downtown keep property and business owners on their toes, because he was never hesitant to share his views on what would make a better downtown.
Scott would routinely stop in the Chamber office and share his vision for a better future, and naturally, one or two frustrations. But no matter the challenge, he continued to pursue the best in all of us to create a vibrant and successful community.
While Scott’s physical time with us has regretfully come to a close, he will never leave us. Like a candle, his spirit, dreams, and devotion to this community will burn on in all of us – a steadfast light that shines on the future and what can be.
He was a friend to this community and a personal friend to so many who were blessed to discover the answers. He will be missed by us all – but his spirit and vision continue to shine bright in each of us.
We can only hope heaven is ready for him.
Todd Streeter is the Executive Director of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.