Photo: Unknown / Courtesy James Byers
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Steefenie Wicks loved Sausalito. She wrote about it in the local paper, she took pictures of the endless stream of characters who seemed to inhabit the town and, her friends say, she was one of them herself.
She lived on a small World War II vintage buoy boat that never left Sausalito, because she never seemed to see the point in leaving.
Wicks’ body was discovered aboard the vessel on March 19, after friends said they had not seen her for several days. She was 71. Standing beside her body was her faithful, beloved Chihuahua, Shorty. Wicks died of kidney failure, her family said.
“She was creative, she worked hard and she got things done,” recalled her friend Tom Hoover. “She was friendly and abrasive, often at the same time. She was a good person with strong ideas.”
A native of St. Louis, Wicks came to the Bay Area in 1968 with her husband Thomas, a ship’s carpenter who restored vessels at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. They bought and lived aboard the sailboat Tiger Lily at Galilee Harbor in Sausalito before moving to the buoy boat, which the Wickses named the Higgins.
After studying photography and graduating from San Francisco State University, Wicks became an archivist for legendary photographer Imogen Cunningham in San Francisco.
Wicks was a regular volunteer, docent and board member with the Sausalito Historical Society, where she and Shorty were known to all. Shorty had his own following and seemed to know every other dog in town.
With the society, Wicks was active in defending and in telling the story of Sausalito’s famous houseboat community.
“She was fun and feisty, and she told great stories about the old days,” said Larry Clinton, her friend and fellow member of the historical society. “There were so many amazing characters in Sausalito, and she was interested in all of them.”
Her son-in-law, James Byers, said Wicks was “the most hysterical person I ever met.”
“No one could make you laugh like she could,” he said.
Decades ago, Wicks helped preserve the two pilot houses from the old bay ferry Issaquah. Those historic structures, set to be demolished, became offices and later were installed at the entrance to the marina where Wicks lived.
In later years, she painstakingly restored a collection of 350 century-old glass plate negatives that told the story of the Greek-American community in San Francisco. A friend had found the disintegrating images in a long-forgotten box in a building being remodeled and turned them over to Wicks, who recognized that they had a story to tell. Wicks exhibited the photos in San Francisco and in Athens.
Last year, Wicks wrote an obituary for a fellow photographer and Sausalito live-in boater, Bill Kirsch, that friends said could have been about herself.
“He feels that Sausalito is a magical place that allows peace, joy and creativity to happen,” Wicks wrote. “When you come to visit his boat, you can feel there is something magical that will last beyond his lifetime.”
Wicks is survived by her daughter, Kellie Walker, of Novato. Thomas, her husband of 41 years, died in 2011.
A memorial celebration will be held on May 19 at 1 p.m. at the Sausalito Woman’s Club, 120 Central Ave., Sausalito.
Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Steefenie-Wicks-who-lived-on-a-boat-and-stood-13741792.php.