It seems like the news of industry veterans’ passing has become all too common in recent years. But Stevie Lavallee was much more than just another industry mainstay.. . to me and to our industry.
I met Stevie back around 1990. I’d see him at seminars in the Boston area and he was a regular attendee at Trans Expo. I’d read his work in Transmission Digest and, after the launch of GEARS, we had a bit of a friendly rivalry.
Since then, he’s contributed to GEARS Magazine and presented at ATRA’s Powertrain Expo. All of this might be considered impressive on its own, but it was different with Stevie. He had a passion for the industry and the people in it. He was always eager to help a fellow technician solve a problem and he did it with a touch and flair that was encouraging.
Prior to his failing health, he was a regular on ATRA’s forums and used that same level of care there as he did when he was working face to face. Over the past few years we’d seen less and less of Stevie as his health declined, but, even in the midst of his struggle, he managed to pull off a terrific Expo presentation; 2012 being his last.
These are my memories of Stevie: a kind and gentle man with the willingness and desire to help anyone in need.
But Stevie’s story in this industry goes all the way back to the ’70s. After working at a service station, then his father’s shop, and finally a dealership, he decided to step out on his own. It was 1975; he was just 22 with only $1300 to his name, and like so many startups, he struggled through the early years.. . but he never gave up.
As his business grew, he started an offshoot: Transmission Engineering and Service Technology (TEST) research center. Many of us recall his articles from the research he did on diagnostic and testing equipment.
The last place Stevie worked was Russell Auto in Manchester, New Hampshire. Owner Wayne Russell recalled the first day they met: “It was Christmas weekend in 1976 and Stevie needed help with an Allison AT540. We worked on it over the weekend, struggling to figure it out, and finally got it working. From that day on we were both committed to our industry and became lifelong friends.”
Stevie Lavallee was a colleague and friend and I will miss him dearly. He’s survived by his wife, Nancy, and his son, Steve Jr.