Michael Roland Stebbins, 74, died at home in North Bend, Oregon, on March 11, 2023, but only after his family finished singing his favorite John Prine and Roger Miller songs. Mike departed as he liked to live, hosting a raucous crew near a blazing fire with superb food and music.
A memorial will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 24, 2023, at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 2250 16th Street in North Bend, followed by a reception from 4:30-8:00 p.m. at Black Market Gourmet, 495 Central Avenue in Coos Bay.
Steady, always with a plan, a sense of purpose, and leather work gloves in his pickup, Mike was a raconteur and romantic who believed in family and the dignity of the individual. He frequently wore suits to children's sporting events. A trial lawyer representing Coos County's injured workers by day, there was no time to change clothes.
Born in Seattle, Washington, to Bud, a WWII bomber pilot turned accountant, and Frances, a nurse. Mike attended Coos Catholic and North Bend High School, graduating in 1966. A lifelong supporter of Bulldog athletics, Mike played on both sides of the ball for North Bend's football team in the fall, wrestled in the winter, and played catcher on the baseball team in the spring.
Mike was a Willamette University Sigma Chi fraternity member and proud Bearcat. He played on the school’s first soccer team but never got around to graduating. After departing Willamette for reasons explained only in stories too marvelous to confirm, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1971 with a History degree.
In December 1971, at Slim Otto’s bar in Appleton, Wisconsin, sweaty and a few beers deep from celebrating a city league basketball win, Mike happened upon Mary Lou Welhouse, fresh out of the convent and nearly a nun. Mike inquired. Mary Lou demurred. Ever undeterred, he persevered. A notoriously slow decision-maker throughout life, it took Mike three months to ask Mary Lou to marry him. She said, "No." After getting married on July 22, 1972, at St. Aloysius Church in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, they left for Oregon in a yellow Ford Mustang packed with camping gear.
By welding fireplace parts and installing pool tables Mike paid his way through night school at the Northwestern College of Law at Lewis & Clark. He also worked for the National Lawyers Guild Prison Project in Portland before and after passing the bar, but ultimately, he couldn’t resist the pull of the South Coast.
Mike practiced law in North Bend for 46 years, starting in 1975. With a window looking out into the lingerie section of the Emporium department store, the law firm Hayner, Waring & Stebbins dabbled in various areas of law and offered wills for $50 from their office at Pony Village Mall. The firm evolved into Stebbins & Coffey. Mike and his law partner, Jim Coffey, worked together for 37 years and developed a reputation as the preeminent firm serving individuals and local governments on the Southern Oregon Coast. Their office on California Street closed in 2022 and is slated to become a visitor center for the City of North Bend. A spirited litigator throughout his career, Mike never ceased being inspired by the people he represented in Coos County. He was proud to obtain millions in compensation for “people that work in the woods and on the water."
Mike has yet to really retire. He loved mentoring young lawyers and continued to take phone calls to discuss cases even in his final weeks.
Mary Lou and Mike raised six children in North Bend. He loved books, hearing all the filthy jokes his son Mac had on offer, and completing the New York Times crossword — but only Thursday through Sunday, otherwise "too easy," so please don't waste his time. A true coastal boy, Mike fished, hunted, and played golf with his friends whenever possible. He had a decent approach game.
Mike loved holding court by the fire pit in his backyard or with passing friends while sitting in his worn leather chair facing Simpson Avenue in the "old garage.” He officiated the wedding of one friend he met in this manner. He could captivate any audience with a story and loved dispensing advice, solicited or otherwise. Still, his most incredible skill was making others feel heard.
Through the years, Mike coached hundreds of South Coast kids on soccer, basketball, and softball teams. He served in the National Guard for 6 years and on the boards for St. Catherine's Nursing Home and the North Bend Community Scholarship Fund. He was barred from teaching catechism class in the 1980s for pushing the boundaries of church doctrine but served on the Parish Council anyway.
Mike is survived by his wife, Mary Lou, and their children: Kate (Jeremy) Stinson, Franky (Ken) Collins, Jane Stebbins, Mac (Haylee) Stebbins, Hank (Emily) Stebbins, and Duke (Kailee) Stebbins.
In addition, he is survived by his brother, Dale (Donna) Stebbins; and sisters, Jean (Tom) McKnight and Kathi (Howard) Hintz, and their children, all of whom held a special place in Mike’s heart.
In place of flowers, please donate to the North Bend Community Scholarship Fund at nbcsf.org.
Arrangements are under the care of Coos Bay Chapel, 541-267-3131. Family and friends are invited to sign the online guestbook at www.coosbayareafunerals.com
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