Sept. 3, 1940-Sept. 12, 2023
Stephen Raymond McClung, award winning Hoosier artist, passed away peacefully at the age of 83 at IU Health Jay on Sept. 12, 2023, with his wife of 60 years by his side.
Steve was born on Sept. 3, 1940, at the Wiebusch homestead on East 7th Street in the summer kitchen. The son of Nellie Lola Wiebusch and Pastor Raymond Eckles McClung, he was the third of 10 children, who all led lives in the Indiana and Ohio area. His fond memories of his childhood and the landscapes that framed them were often the inspiration of his paintings.
He was preceded in death by his siblings Kathleen, Ronald and John. Surviving are his adored Martha, David, Barbara, Peggy, Kit and Kevin, the latter leading his memorial service this coming Saturday.
Steve married Sheron Sue Thorn on Nov. 11, 1962, who survives. Together they have three children, Kurt, Kent and Amy. Kent is married to local teacher Annemarie Huber McClung, and their three children, Ian, Lillian and Julia graduated from Jay County High School. Amy, who once worked at the forge, married to David Young from Portland and also gave Steve three grandchildren, Mackenzie, Kaitlyn and Addison. Kurt and Stephanie, and their son Charlie-Lee, who live in France, join the family in mourning.
Steve was a graduate of Portland High School’s 1958 class and went on to study chemistry at Manchester College on a football and track and field scholarship. He loved the way chemicals would change colors, like by magic, when mixed together.
Steve proudly served in the Indiana National Guard for six years from 1963 to 1969 as a staff sergeant. He had amazing stories from that time from playing pinochle and learning jokes from every walk of society. He loved camping in Indiana and Kentucky national parks and fishing on the Wabash River, something he had done all of his life. Sheron and Steve were members of the Limberlost Squares and loved dancing the Wabash Whirl.
To raise his family, Stephen worked at Portland Forge. After working in roofing, he went on to establish Steve McClung Construction where over the next 40 years he was proud of every chance he had to build something in the community. Among his proudest constructions were Memorial Hall at the Green Park Cemetery and the Baptist church on Charles Street. His fondest memories were working for local families and companies, renovating homes and offices. He taught all of his children how to crawl under a house or up on a roof.
Coach McClung, known for his gentle approach in a physical game, coached the Pee Wee Packers at the dawn of the Portland Pee Wee Football League from 1973 to 2009, working alongside his great friend and best man at his wedding, Frank Inman. He remembered nearly every name of the 500 plus kids that played for him, and the name of every coach he ever faced. Though he was a passionate competitor, he believed teaching sportsmanship and developing a passion for football were the primary goals of pee wee.
Steve was an active member of the Portland’s Lions Club for most of his life, twice president and once district governor, where he represented District 25D at the International Convention in Taiwan. He loved working behind the grill at the Lionburger stand at Jay County Fairgrounds, collecting eyeglasses and delivering oranges at Christmas in particular.
Stephen was the son of a preacher, and one of his proudest part-time roles was to have been the song picker of Sunday hymns for the Rev. Kevin McClung, who continues the ministry at the Church of the Brethren on Floral Avenue.
Steve’s proudest career achievement was to be recognized as an artist by both artistic peers and collectors. Self-taught, he credits bounds in the quality of his works to advice from his friend and artistic mentor, John Warner. His mentor helped him limit his color palette and to stop trying to paint pictures that would sell, but concentrate on painting memories that were important to himself. Steve’s landscape paintings in oil on canvas began to gain recognition throughout the tristate area.
Stephen McClung has won several awards in Indiana and Ohio, the first major award was the Van Wert, Ohio, Charles F. Wassenberg Award for Trinity Barn. Minnetrista awarded and purchased Bloomfield Inn and Salamonie River Bank. His work was also featured in exhibits in the Indiana State Fair, Broad Ripple Framing Gallery, Fort Wayne Museum and the White Water Valley show. He was proud of a local show at the Hugh N. Ronald Memorial Gallery in Portland.
Steve travelled to Germany, Italy, France and all over America, bringing to canvas his unique perspective on the landscapes and locations that he felt simply worth painting. His favorite places remained the Indiana landscapes of his childhood, where colors and memories collided to take you into his child’s eye view of his surroundings.
As time in his career passed, he eventually was earning a better living selling his paintings than fixing houses and was able to transition to a career of full-time artist. He accomplished what he had set out to become. He was commissioned by The Portland Foundation to paint a mural of Jay County’s key landmarks that was used for a series of collector lithograph prints to raise funds.
Hundreds of paintings and illustrations remain as part of the artist’s legacy in homes and collections on five continents. He has worked from his art shop for 20 years thanks to support from Bryan Alexander and Steve Takats, who he considered true patrons of the arts.
He was one of the founders of the Alcove arts club and taught art classes at Arts Place, something he truly enjoyed. The funeral lunch will be held there.
Memorials can be left to The Portland Foundation in Steve’s name for a fund to be created for the arts.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at Baird-Freeman Funeral Home. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the funeral home with a meal to follow at Arts Place.