42.9709° N, 82.4249° W
Port Huron, Michigan
Stephanie Ward, 31, and Tracie Steptoe, 31, both of Port Huron, have known each other so long, they don’t even remember when they met.
They knew each other in elementary school, but their memories are fuzzy regarding any first encounter. But both can immediately pinpoint the moment when they became best friends in seventh grade.
Those early days were filled with sleepovers at one another’s homes where Tracie marveled at farm chores Stephanie completed each day, and Stephanie was entranced with Tracie’s bedroom television. Though their home lives were distinctively different, a shared perspective on life, and a comfortable easiness with one another that is filled with laughter – lots and lots of laughter – built a strong bond between the two.
Almost 20 years later, the two very different young women – who can and do finish one another’s sentences like an old married couple – cannot imagine what their lives would have been like had they not found one another.
Ward is diminutive, shy and soft-spoken. An aesthetician who is employed by Spa 223 in downtown Port Huron, Ward has a quiet confidence about her, especially when talking about her work. She is passionate about taking care of her clients and helping them with their skin care needs. She is a believer in taking a holistic approach to health and life. She is not disorganized, but life can head in many directions at one time for her.
Steptoe is opposite in some ways, very much like Ward in others. A teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Port Huron, she loves children and teaching. She is outspoken and never hesitates to express her opinion. She is clearly confident in herself, she is highly organized, very pragmatic and extremely practical.
“She’s always brutally honest with me when I dress myself,” said Ward with a laugh, whose personal style is distinctive and hippie-chick-chic.
“I’m the controller and the organizer,” said Steptoe with a laugh. For example, the two have taken numerous vacations together. “I’ll plan the trip. I tell her where to go and what to do. I’ll give her an itinerary.”
This is all fine with Ward, who, following the death of her mother a few years ago, has taken on a more active role in the lives of her four younger sisters, all of whom are in high school and college. “I’ve got so much to deal with all the time at home,” she said. She noted that having Steptoe organize the “fun” time in her life is a luxury she isn’t otherwise afforded.
“She knows I’m much like a kindergartener in that I will wander around a store or wherever we are, taking my own time, and she will budget that extra time for me into our itinerary. She doesn’t mind,” said Ward.
Steptoe immediately added: “She has so many other things to worry about all of the time; I can do that for her.”
The Wedding Planner
There was no question the two would stand in one another’s weddings. Both got married in 2007 when Stephanie married Nick Ward of Fort Gratiot, and Tracie married Dan Steptoe of Port Huron.
Steptoe’s organizational skills are so superb, said Ward, “I didn’t have any responsibilities at Tracie’s wedding,” she said with a laugh, noting Steptoe’s wedding took place on Mackinac Island. “I remember getting in the car to head up there and she had her folder with her little tabs all organized.”
Steptoe laughed. “I have a little bit of a control issue and I’m working on it.”
Mutual Love and Respect
But regardless of these innate differences, the two share an obvious mutual respect and love for one another.
“What I love most about Stephanie is her generosity,” said Steptoe. “She would do anything for anyone else. She always puts everyone ahead of herself…both good and bad…and she’s always there when I need her, all of the time.”
Ward is quick to point out the levity that Steptoe brings to her life. “She’s the person who makes me laugh more than anyone else,” she said. “I just enjoy everything about our friendship.”
“What makes us work so well,” said Steptoe, “is there are no expectations. We’re just so comfortable just ‘being’. We don’t expect anything from each other. When we’re old and gray, we’ll be fine with just sitting on a porch together watching the lake.”
“We’re perfectly content with each other,” said Ward.