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Steven P. Kiernan
July 17, 1953 ~ August 20, 2023 (age 70) 70 Years Old
Steven P. Kiernan, 70, who grew up in Ridgewood with his six brothers and three sisters and made his mark in his hometown as a stand out student leader and track star, passed away on August 20 after a sudden illness. Mr. Kiernan –more comfortably Steve--was retired from a long career with prominent companies in the risk management and reinsurance industries. He left his family, his children, loved ones and friends with a flood of memories of his bright and generous personality, his adventures and his Irish spirit of camaraderie and fun.
Steve was the second son of the late Garvin and Lucille Kiernan, who raised their large and gregarious family in the Village, first in a post War starter home on Newcomb Road in the Lawns, and later, in a three story Victorian on Woodside Avenue. Steve, whose crew cut stood out amongst the neatly combed Kiernan boys—attended Mt. Carmel School and played football—the sport he loved first-- for the Ridgewood Rockets at Veterans Field. At Ridgewood High School, Steve played sophomore football, returning punts, but was then recruited by the legendary Track and Field coach Larry Coyle to help boost his team. Steve’s younger brothers Rob and Dave eventually joined him, a trio of long -haired runners captured in a photograph published in the Ridgewood News—still treasured by the Kiernan family.
Steve is remembered as a dedicated and fierce competitor who was an inspiration to the team—as Coach Coyle had hoped. A recognized leader with enviable people skills, Steve was captain of the Cross Country and Track and Field Teams and was elected president of the RHS Senior Class. He was recognized as one of the elite middle distance runners in New Jersey. Later in life, Steve took great pride when his son Sean also became a high school runner.
From Ridgewood High, Steve went to Seton Hall University—his father’s alma mater—and graduated with a degree in political science. During his college years, when he was living at home on Woodside Avenue, he would be up at dawn delivering the New York Times in a yellow Ford Pinto station wagon stuffed with newspapers. He loved The Beatles and played an electric guitar, loud enough to irk a curmudgeonly neighbor who came to the Kiernan house in protest. He spent summers working at a camp at Lake George and later impressed his brothers and sisters with his ability to make a big tray of grilled cheese. Steve bought a red 1963 Triumph Spitfire which he and his father restored in the big barn behind the Woodside Avenue house, at one point hoisting the engine out so they could rebuild it.
As it happens in families—especially big ones like the Kiernans--siblings set out in different directions, and, after college graduation, Steve went –at least temporarily--off the beaten path. In what he described as the best decision he ever made, he took off alone to backpack through Europe, where he had never been and even though he had no camping skills that his family knew of. With a plane ticket from his parents and then a Eurail Pass, he traveled for close to a year, staying at youth hostels and eating bread and cheese. Back home, Steve bought a motorcycle and cruised around until his next adventure. He bought a one way cross country bus ticket to San Diego where he met up with college buddies and knocked around for another year. Then he returned to Ridgewood and settled into a long professional career.
In 1978, Steve began working in the insurance industry at INA Insurance Group, now part of CIGNA Group. In 1980 he married Barbara C. Cheng of Bayside Queens N.Y. , at the United Nations chapel in New York City. After a few years living in Cliffside Park they headed with their baby girl Kimberly to Los Angeles, where their son Sean was born. Steve worked there for Guy Carpenter and Company, a leading specialist in global risk and reinsurance, and was eventually transferred to the company’s San Francisco office as vice president. He later joined the recently formed Aon Reinsurance Group where he worked for six years in San Francisco and Greenwich Ct. Steve traveled around the world meeting clients, blessed with the gift of gab and a kind and open personality–qualities, along with his adventuresome nature, that will live on through his children and grandchildren.
Steve was proud to bring his family back to Ridgewood where he would drive his kids to early morning practices at the high school and to their summer jobs at Graydon pool. Of all the places where the Kiernan family lived, Steve’s favorite was their home on Fairway Road which was the center for huge family gatherings for all sorts of occasions, from July 4th to birthdays. Steve’s nephews remember fondly the Thanksgiving festivities, not just for the vast amount of food and the football games on the big screen tv in the basement, but for the opportunity to smoke cigars on Uncle Steve’s screen porch.
In 1999, Steve founded Burns & Wilcox Re and served as President and CEO providing risk and financial advisory services to corporations and insurers. He retired in 2015 and lived a quiet life in Ridgewood.
Steve leaves his daughter Kimberly, her husband Grant Pothast and their son Charlie, of Delray Beach, Florida; his son Sean, his wife Christina and their son Will, of New York, NY; their mother, Barbara Cheng of Hawthorne; his sisters Laura and Maggie, and his brothers Thomas, Robert, David, Peter, John and Andrew. He was predeceased by his youngest sister Sarah, and Debra, who died in infancy. Steve’s longtime partner, Stephanie Featherstone of Paramus, with whom he treasured many peaceful visits to her father’s home in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, cared for Steve during his illness, with support from VNA Health Group of Englewood Hospital. The family is very grateful for all the love and compassion that surrounded Steve in his final days.
As Steve requested, no services are planned. The family suggests reaching out to someone in need with an act of kindness, in Steve’s memory.