Steven Allen Caraker, 67, of Hendersonville, N.C., passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. He often described himself as “just a plumber.” For those who knew and loved him, he was so much more – a devoted husband, father, patriot and public servant with a generous heart, a dry wit, and a colorful vernacular.
He was born in Inglewood, Calif., the son of the late Kenneth Caraker and Betty Joanne Lussenhop Caraker. He attended James Monroe High School in Sepulveda, Calif., and became a plumber at the urging of his then-girlfriend’s father, who thought the couple might be getting serious and wanted to make sure Steve knew a trade that would support a family. The relationship fizzled, but a rewarding career path emerged.
Steve worked as a plumber in the Los Angeles area before moving to Hendersonville in 1983 in search of a better place to raise his three children. He held a variety of plumbing-related jobs throughout the area until his retirement in 2019 as a project manager for T.P. Howard’s Plumbing in Fairview, N.C. He taught a plumbing certification course at Blue Ridge Community College for many years, as well as continuing education classes for licensed plumbers.
From 1992 – 2008, Steve was the lead plumbing and mechanical inspector for Henderson County Building Services. It was in the course of this job that he met the love of his life and best friend, Donna. Steve often told family and friends that he looked at Donna across the room and “knew she was The One.” The couple married in 1997. They cherished many adventures together, including restoring their historic home in the West Side Historic District, ballroom dancing, and traveling with friends. In recent years, they particularly enjoyed road trips on Steve’s 2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Ultra Classic or his 2009 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail, where they racked up more than 100,000 miles together, most recently traveling to Milwaukee and Sturgis. At Steve’s insistence, his tombstone is engraved with the words, “Without this exceptional woman, I was much less a man.”
Steve’s interest in historic home restoration led to an appointment on the Hendersonville Historic Preservation Commission, where he served two terms. As chair of the commission, he led efforts to defeat a proposed high-rise condo that would have destroyed the face of Main Street and shaped the commission’s role as an educational resource for historic homeowners.
Another highlight of his public service was serving as a guardian on an Honor Flight in 2006, where he escorted three World War II veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C. Afterward, he eagerly participated in flag lines to welcome home returning Honor Flights.
From 2007 – 2019, he served on the Hendersonville City Council, two of those years as Mayor Pro Tempore, where his passion to preserve the city’s character while propelling it forward never waned. His proudest accomplishments as councilman included the revitalization efforts of the Seventh Avenue Historic District, the preservation of Grey Hosiery Mill and the Main Street Improvements Project. Never one to shy away from political debate, he preferred to seek compromise and relished bringing “an average guy’s perspective” to a range of city issues.
Since 2009, he was an active member of the Smoky Mountain Harley Owners Group, serving in various roles, including activities officer and head road captain. At the time of his death, Steve was in his fourth year as director where he was so proud of the good works this group accomplished. Fueled by his belief that “every child deserves a good Christmas,” he played a major role in organizing the Smoky Mountain Toy Run and facilitated the HOG chapter’s involvement in the Henderson County Toy Run, as well as supporting fundraisers for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
In addition to his parents, Steve is preceded in death by his daughter, Amy Lauren Caraker, and his sister, Susan Debra Caraker.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 24 years, Donna Fain Caraker of Hendersonville, N.C.; son Lance Caraker-Mahoney and wife Lori of Hubert, N.C., and their children, Brooke Bentley, Madison Caraker-Mahoney, and Dawson Caraker-Mahoney; daughter April Caraker Bishay and husband Amgd of Cambridge, England, and their children Julia Bishay and David Bishay; parents-in-law David and JoAnn Fain of Hendersonville, N.C.; aunt Sharon Barbosa of Valencia, Calif.; one niece and three nephews; and numerous cousins, extended family members and close friends.
His family would like to extend special appreciation to Steve’s sister-in-law, Diane Fain Worthen, friend Lewis Payne, and their Smoky Mountain HOG family.
A Celebration of Life is planned for August 29th. The family will announce details at a later date.