EnviroReporter.com was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Steve Cain, senior environmental planner for the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, on December 16. Steve died in his sleep of heart failure according to an obituary notice in the December 23 edition of the Malibu Times. He was 52.

“Cain, since March 2002, worked at the LARWQCB, where he also carried the title of senior environmental planner,” read the obituary. “Prior to that, he worked at the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Environmental Protection Agency. Cain held a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara, and a master’s degree in Communications Studies from Claremont University.”

I met Steve when I first started reporting on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, also known as Rocketdyne, in 1998 for the LA Weekly. Steve handled the media for the Rocketdyne issue for the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and we immediately hit it off. Not only was Steve extremely efficient at getting me the information I needed, he had the ability and willingness to ‘look over the horizon’ and suggest ideas and leads that hadn’t occurred to me.

I was disappointed when Steve moved over and up at the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2002, but that disappointment quickly evaporated when he was succeeded by DTSC’s Jeanne Garcia who also has some of Steve’s best characteristics: empathy and class.

Those rare qualities weren’t the only ones Steve will be remembered for:

“Steve was a joy to be around and brought out the best in almost everyone. He had a wicked, dry sense of humor and was amazing at helping the press because he understood what they needed, knew what he was talking about and how to present it to the media,” Liz Kanter, former spokesperson for the State Water Resources Control Board, said in a press release according to the Malibu Times. “Steve could get things done, and done well. Many of us counted Steve as a dear friend outside of work and I was always excited to trade barbs with him. He left us too soon. To say he will be missed is a gross understatement.”

Denise Anne and I were fortunate to be able to spend time with Steve when he attended PSR-LA’s “Military Tour of Southern California” in June 2006. The Los Angeles chapter of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility, where Denise Anne is now associate director, chartered two tour buses to crisscross the region looking at places like Rocketdyne, Nike missile bases and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“I came on the PSR tour because I want to learn as much as I can,” Steve said at the time. “The more I know, the better the board can do its job. Besides, it’s fascinating.”

We regaled each other with war stories at a tour stop outside the perimeter of the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach at the World War II Submarine Memorial. Steve expressed his admiration for PSR’s work and he seemed charmed by Denise Anne. “I like her,” he said smiling at me. “She’s a keeper.”

That was Steve and it made me feel great to hear him say that. It is only fitting that in our last round of communications, he provided us with information crucial to a two-year investigation we will break in 2010. That information could impact the health and well-being of untold numbers of people in the San Fernando Valley and it speaks volumes about Steve’s integrity.

We wish to extend our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Stephen Cain.

Steve is survived by his life partner Jim Muller, his mother and two sisters. A memorial service will be held Jan. 3 at Village Green Clubhouse, 5300 Rodeo Rd., in Los Angeles at 12 p.m. Memorials can be made in his honor to two nonprofit organizations: Out of the Closet (www.outofthecloset.org) or Heal the Bay (www.healthebay.org).


  1. I met Steve through his work with the Santa Susana Field Lab. He always told me “Bonnie, you are polite but persistent” as I was always asking for information. I told him recently that as a sick former worker I was successful in getting Federal compensation for all the former workers who were sick and fell within certain years of employment. He thought my story would be of interest to people as I was a grass roots activist. Now Michael Collins will publish my story in VCReporter. We will miss Steve. Bonnie Klea

  2. Michele McCulloch Duncan

    I am so saddened to hear of Steve’s passing. With much fondness and respect,I remember Steve Cain as a classmate of mine. We went to elementary school and high school together. We served on the school newspapers, and the yearbook committees for years together, at both schools. I am so proud that he found his career in Journalism. His work was one of integrity, and was always one of what was best for the world, and others.

    Steve had such a great sense of humor, and was always the first to offer help if anyone needed it. As I think of him today, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I recall that I do not ever remember Steve doing anything but smiling. In all those years of going to school together I do not remember anything but smiles and laughter together. To Leona (comment above): One of my favorite photos is that of you and Steve sitting cross-legged under the Christmas tree in the High School gym.

    Steve Cain was indeed, a gift, to all those who knew him.

    My best regards to his family.

  3. I just learned that Steve Cain passed away. I am saddened to read this news. He was a nice man. When I covered a matter regarding Boeing in Long Beach a few years ago, I had to go to Steve’s office in Downtown LA to look at some records. While I was inside, my car was towed away outside. Steve felt bad for me and let me use the agency’s phone to call the tow company to inquire about my car, which was at an impound nearby. Steve then offered to drive me to the impound, the only problem was that Steve did not drive a car but took public transportation. Steve asked me not to tell anyone, but that he would take the agency car and use it to take me to the impound. We went into the parking garage, got in the agency car and headed to the impound to get my car out. We chatted about music and different things in the meantime. Once at the destination, Steve waited in the car until I was in safe hands and everything was okay. I thanked him and as he backed up on his way out, he nearly had a collision with another car! But nothing happened. Steve was kind, gracious, and sincere. Though I haven’t talked with him in a few years since my Boeing series ended, I will miss him.

    Kirt Ramirez, freelance writer, Long Beach, CA

  4. Leona (Jeffers) Kaialau

    I went to High School with Steve. He was one of my favorite people. It speaks volumes to say, after all these years of not being in contact with him, that it brings tears to my eyes to hear of his passing. We shared many, many, fun times together. He was quite the prankster!! I only hope that when my time comes people will remember me as I know everyone who ever met Steve will remember him. Steve wrote in my yearbook on graduation day and as I quote him today – it is with love. “Thank you for passing through my life (Steve) while on the way through yours”.

  5. Steve will be missed by all of us at DTSC. He was a friend and a colleague. He had a great sense of humor and great insights.

  6. Steve was my supervisor at DTSC from 2000/2002. He will be missed by many.

  7. Steve was a gift in so many ways: his sense of humor and his dedication to doing good for others…he surely has left this world better than he found it. May this good, good soul rest in peace.

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