One of North Idaho's bright lights was snuffed on Friday.
Maj StormoGipson, a highly respected pediatrician and outdoors enthusiast, died in a Salmon River kayaking accident. Just 57, she was surrounded by family on a six-day rafting trip.
The word "brilliant" has been diminished in this age of cheap superlatives, but Maj StormoGipson was brilliant. Equally, and what made her so rare in North Idaho, she was compassionate.
Maj and her husband, Justin, graduated from Dartmouth Medical School. Before they specialized - Maj in pediatrics and Justin in ophthalmology - they were general practice doctors for two years. As distinguished Ivy Leaguers they couldn't be blamed for wanting to rush out and recoup as much of their educational investment as possible, in as short a time as possible. But that's not what motivates them.
The Doctors StormoGipson spent two years instead helping the poor in Jinotega, Nicaragua. And almost every year since finishing their residencies in 1991, Maj and Justin have returned to Third-World countries to assist the needy - and, it turns out, themselves.
"We have come to realize that the relationships that come from our interactions with patients in the Third-World influences us as much as it does the patients," Justin wrote a couple of years ago for International Eye Institute, Inc. "When we return home, our experiences influence our communities.
"We truly believe that this reverse mission may, in the long run, be the most important result of our medical mission trips."
While often comfortable in the background, Maj and Justin have provided a calming voice of reason when vitriol threatens to run rampant. We have valued them not just as friends to the community at large, but as citizens who will speak up for those without the ability or the strength to stand and be heard. The StormoGipsons have always represented viewpoints thoughtfully and respectfully, often from the position of a minority opinion.
Going back through some of the perspectives Maj shared with readers of The Press over the years, we discovered one in particular that resonated with us. In October 2009, she wrote a letter to the editor critical of a Coeur d'Alene School Board decision to eliminate four books from the reading list that had been recommended by teachers. We offer this excerpt from her letter:
Life is interesting and wonderful. Life is also violent, sad, disturbing, and confusing.
I read to learn about people's lives set in times and places that I will never experience. I may not agree with certain attitudes, language or situations presented in books. Nevertheless, I am enriched through literature.
The life of Maj StormoGipson is a book not just worth reading, but emulating.