Our View: Grass Valley right to recognize Ambassador Chris Stevens
October 27, 2017
We are heartened to hear this week that the City of Grass Valley has worked with the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens to prominently memorialize him in the downtown area of his hometown.
The Chris Stevens Courtyard, as it will soon be known, is a 10-foot wide by 100-foot long walkway in the middle of Mill Street that dates back to the original 1872 Grass Valley Townsite.
Stevens was one of four Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The ambassador was born in Grass Valley in 1960 and was laid to rest in a local cemetery in November 2012.
As investigations and congressional hearings on Benghazi attack have been conducted, the event has been highly politicized. However, the ambassador's dedication to his country, and his love for Grass Valley, should not be subjected to party politics.
“Chris loved Nevada County,” Jan Stevens told The Union at the time of his burial in 2012. “He spent many happy days swimming in the Yuba (River), skiing at Donner Summit, jogging the trails and hiking with us.“It was a formative part of his life. I think he felt a bond to Nevada County, an identity, and really appreciated the history and had ancestors who were part of the community.”
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J. Christopher "Chris" Stevens died in service to his country.
His "service as U.S. Ambassador to Libya was a final assignment in a career dedicated to public service and fostering international understanding," reads a short biography presented to the city in support of the project. "After a stint in the Peace Corps in Morocco and a law practice based on international trade law, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service, serving in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Lybia, where was appointed U.S. Ambassador."
"Chris was successful because he embodied the traits that have always endeared America to the world," said his father, Jan Stevens, "a commitment to the democratic principles and respect for others regardless of race, religion or culture."
The ambassador's roots run deep in Grass Valley. His great-great-grandparents were among those who emigrated from Cornwall, England to find work in the mines. His paternal grandparents, Elmer and Marguerite Stevens, taught in local high schools and were active with local charities and nonprofit organizations.
His mother, Mary, and father, Jan, both grew up in the area. Mary, a cellist, lived here for years and still owns a house on Deer Creek. Jan served as an assistant district attorney in Nevada County and also as assistant attorney general for the state of California.
According to family, Chris Stevens planned to return to the Grass Valley area upon his retirement.
"Chris loved Nevada County," Jan Stevens told The Union at the time of his burial in 2012. "He spent many happy days swimming in the Yuba (River), skiing at Donner Summit, jogging the trails and hiking with us.
"It was a formative part of his life. I think he felt a bond to Nevada County, an identity, and really appreciated the history and had ancestors who were part of the community."
Next spring, thanks to his family's funding and the collaboration with the city of Grass Valley, the ambassador's connection to the community will be on full display for those who walk through Chris Stevens Courtyard, complete with vine-covered trellises, planter beds, LED lights, plaques and arched metal signs bearing the name "Stevens Court."
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.