Steve Hirsch died Friday morning at his home in Williamsport with his wife, Alison, at his bedside. He was 71 years old and had waged an eight-year struggle with Lewy Body Dementia, a little understood form of dementia related to Parkinson’s Disease.
Born in Los Angeles, Steve was the son of Albert and Ann Hirsch. He worked there for many years as a graphic designer and art director and became a leader in the SGI Buddhist lay organization and director of the group’s bagpipe band.
In 1983, he went back to graduate school in printmaking and received his M.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where master printmaker Hitoshi Nakazato was his mentor. He taught graphic design for 15 years at Penn College of Technology and retired in 2007.
After major heart surgery in 2008, Steve moved into a studio at Williamsport’s Pajama Factory and returned to printmaking. His recent work included collagraphs (prints made using a collage plate) produced at Chad Andrews’s Print+ Studio in the Pajama Factory.
Steve’s other late work included collage and abstract painting. As the disease progressed, he was unable to paint, but he continued to produce art with pens and markers. Just a few weeks before his death, he was instructing nurses and aides at the Roseview Center in the use of color. He retained his good cheer and sense of humor until the end.
In addition to this wife, Steve is survived by his daughter, Amy; his brother, Mark; and numerous cousins, along with the thousands of fellow Buddhists, artists, students, Democrats and others whose lives he touched.
A memorial service at the Pajama Factory next Saturday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m., will be a celebration of his life. Since Steve taught color theory, participants are invited to wear primary colors, complementary colors or anything except plain black. Instead of flowers, his family suggests donations in his memory to WXPI Williamsport Community Radio or to the Pajama Factory’s Center for Creativity.