Craig Stempniak

A “Celebration of Quite a Life” will be held in honor of Craig Martin Stempniak, on Sunday, July 30th at the Orca Beach House on Kachemak Drive from 5 to 7 PM.

A “Celebration of Quite a Life” will be held in honor of Craig Martin Stempniak, on Sunday, July 30th at the Orca Beach House on Kachemak Drive from 5 to 7 PM. Craig’s old friends, neighbors and band-mates are invited to share a favorite dish and fond memory with Joan and Rachael at a memorial pot-luck dinner followed by a bon-fire overlooking Kachemak Bay, weather permitting.

Craig lived his life as a dedicated musician and luthier to his final days, happily surrounding himself with a rich array of guitars, guitar parts, electric basses and his beautifully hand-crafted acoustics each with its own awe-inspiring tonal qualities. He had a prime assortment of coveted amps and the absolute latest peddles on the market. His leather-bound song books of hand-notated music and lyric sheets numbered many, and his extensive collection of Guitar Player magazines continued to serve as Craig’s go-to resource for settling bets and his wealth of knowledge in all things guitar.

Craig passed away in Eugene, OR on July 11, 2021 with Joan, his best friend and “Best Wife Ever”, by his side. Craig was greatly comforted by the presence of his daughter Rachael Brennan visiting from Homer, after Craig’s diagnosis of advanced brain cancer in June. Craig is survived by his son Charles Martin Stempniak of Garden Grove, CA and preceded in death by his sons; Civil Air Patrol trainee, Morgan Forest Stempniak, and U.S. Coast Guard Captain, Jeffery Ebner.

Like many a good blues man, Craig was born in Chicago, Illinois. His parents, Pauline and Chuck Stempniak were artists, athletes, and teachers who lived in nearby Cicero. When Craig was in elementary school, the extended family relocated to California and embraced life on the West Coast.

His parents, aunts and uncles were all champion weight lifters and gymnasts who helped design portions of Muscle Beach. As such, young Craig was often tasked with climbing to the top of human pyramids to do a handstand. It was from those heights where Craig presumably cast his eyes seaward, falling in love with the southern California surf scene. He won his first long-board competition in Dana Point in 1967, the same year, Rachael, the first of his four children was born.

Craig was a natural athlete peppering his high school years pitching no-hitters and playing basketball in state finals. As an adult he could pretty much beat anyone at pool, ping-pong, racquet ball or tennis, but golf was his favorite game. He could be found many, many summer evenings teeing off on Dave Shores Golf Links until dusk.

After Craig’s first son Charlie was born, he moved the small family to Idaho to escape city living. They raised horses and goats homesteading in Kuna, and eventually added two more sons to the Stempniak family; Jeffery and Moe. Although life was good Craig missed the ocean and fresh coastal air. With the help of a Whole Earth Catalog and advice from a friend working the construction scene in Homer, Craig moved the family and the horses to the Kenai Peninsula. Relocating his family to Alaska was one of Craig’s proudest accomplishments; providing them a friendly town to call home, where his kids could explore lush nature, view wildlife on a daily basis, learn sustainable pioneering skills and he was extremely proud that his daughter became a skilled Mariner, regularly navigating Kachemak Bay.

In Alaska, Craig helped build Seward Fisheries Cannery on the Spit, and learned the ropes of commercial crabbing in Kachemak Bay w JD and “Bambro” on the Beede Point. His wood working skills came in handy securing boat building work over the years, and he enjoyed remodeling wheel houses in the boat yard.

Throughout the chapters of his life Craig played guitar with like-minded friends, performing in southern rock bands for small town events, state fairs and community fundraisers. Craig liked playing happy hours the most where he knew he could cheer people up and lift their spirits with music after a long days work. Craig was lead guitarist in Arnold’s Garage and played bass for the original Bay Riders Band and for many, MANY years with the popular dance band, Too Fat To Fly.

Craig married Joanie Daniewski, the “Sunshine of his Life”, in February 1987 in a Detroit snowstorm which was only bested by the snow storm in Homer on the day they were to fly out. They lived quite happily in a Tiny Home that Craig built by the bluffs just north of Homer, and ran a nautical antiques store called the Jolly Roger until the Exxon Valdez Spill.

Craig went on to become a certified Luthier studying in Red Wing MN. It was the perfect dovetailing of his love of music and woodworking skills. He cultivated a thriving string instrument repair and custom guitar design shop, in Homer, named Guitar Towne. Craig expanded on his home-based repair shop to include music lessons for Alaskan homeschool children and individual adults. He cherished all of his students.

Craig continued connecting youth to music by performing in the Blues in Schools program when he semi-retired to Eugene, Oregon, and he was a valued band member playing the Willamette Valley music festival circuit until things quieted down in 2020.

Craig and Joanie enjoyed life in the PNW and the ease of living without winter. They regularly enjoyed coastal camping at their favorite storm-watching hotels.

Craig loved all kids, having fun, fishing with his sons at the Fishing hole on the Spit, kicking excessive banjo players off stage during gigs. (Which earned him the nick name Enforcer). He was a strong, fearless, and funny, well-read and well-loved especially by his dog buddies who he rescued from shelters over the years. If you wanted to know anything about guitars or needed a good friend- Craig was your man! He is deeply missed with each new day.