Stephen Mecca's passing

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Stephen Mecca's passing

Hello everyone.

My name is Hannah Davis and I am Steve Mecca's granddaughter and founder of GSAP.

I have the terrible job of letting you all know that at the end of August 2018, Steve passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was energetic, optimistic, and - in typical Steve fashion - thinking about toilets until the end.

Many of you know he became involved in sanitation in Ghana and elsewhere after joining GSAP, and eventually took it over and had been running it for several years by the time of his death. He was the inventor of the GSAP Microflush toilet among so many other projects, and spent most of his time in his last decade advocating for, building, and training others on how to build these off-grid systems. They have now been built in more than twenty countries around the world.

Steve - affectionally called Poppy by students, colleagues in Ghana, and of course his grandchildren - was born in Brooklyn in 1943. He received his BS and MS in physics at Providence College, and a PhD in nuclear physics from RPI. He helped found Times Squared Academy in Providence and also consulted for NATO and NASA. He was a non-stop type of person - constantly going, constantly coming up with brilliant new ideas that he would implement faster than you could imagine.

One thing I really appreciated about him is that he updated his views over time. He came into the international nonprofit world with fairly typical ideas of paternalistic aid. Over the years (and through many difficult conversations), he really came to both embrace and implement alternate models, to the point where one of his last papers was on empowering local economies.

I'll leave you with one anecdote - I was putting together an audio story of people's most 'ecstatic/out-of-body' experiences, and asked for Steve's story. He responded with three things he said were equal - 1) the day he met my grandmother, 2) the day my mother was born, and 3) the day he first realized he could make a totally sustainable off-grid toilet system. I don't think anything can quite summarize him better than that. :)

SuSanA was a remarkable resource for him and he was always talking about interactions he'd had on here. For that I want to say thanks to all of you, and know that he would be thanking you as well.

Providence College has put together a lovely website to remember Steve - please feel free to add your own memories: alumni.providence.edu/memories-of-dr-mecca/ .

Additionally, I've helped posthumously publish Steve's last paper, on "Bacterial communities in the digester bed and liquid effluent of a microflush composting toilet system", which can be seen here: peerj.com/articles/6077/
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  • DianeKellogg
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Re: Stephen Mecca's passing

Thank You, Hannah, for sharing with the SuSanA community both this sad news and the breadth of Steve's legacy. I knew of his work in sanitation and so appreciated getting a glimpse into who he was as a teacher, mentor, colleague....and Grandfather. Thank You for including the link to Providence College where so many shared their memories of Steve and his influence on them. I met Steve only by telephone and email, yet have met many appreciative members of the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor who proudly tell me: "I was taught by Steve Mecca." They have a sustainable income now, thanks to him. That's a lasting legacy.

Diane M. Kellogg
Partner, Kellogg Consultants
Private Sector Specialist, BMGF grant to SuSanA
Marketing Consultant, PRISTO (RVO-funded grant)
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  • arno
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Re: Stephen Mecca's passing

Hello Hannah
Thanks for sharing this with the SuSanA network.

Steve sounds like someone I really should have met on the trail. We somehow missed each other.

Will look carefully for his teachings.

Hope to meet him on the other side someday......

Regards

Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
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