Veteran Showcase: Don Stephens keeps bees

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Don Stephens
Veteran Don Stephens served in the U.S. Navy as an underwater mine man. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

Don Stephens is Anza’s local bee expert, always available to lend a hand with errant swarms and misbehaving hives. He processes honey and beeswax for sale and helps locals establish their own bee boxes.

Not many residents realize he is also a U.S. Navy veteran, having served from 1977 to 1983, attaining the rank of third class petty officer.

Stephens was trained as a mine man, performing his duties at sea aboard minesweeper ships, assisting in the detection and neutralization of underwater explosive devices. Mine men are technicians who test, put together and maintain mines – a very dangerous job. They test the electronic components to ensure correct repair and make sure that the device works properly. They’re also responsible for safe storage, handling and the loading of mines for transport.

His inspiration to join the Navy stemmed from a desire to travel the world and see Europe in particular. He got his wish, being deployed to Greece; Souda Bay, Crete; Sigonella, Sicily, and other U.S. Navy base locations during his tenure in the service.

“I learned to jump out of airplanes and not drown when landing in the ocean and I got to meet amazing people and sample many different foods,” Stephens said.

His career was well-rounded and exciting, he said. When he was discharged, he worked as an explosive technician for Aerojet, an American rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer based primarily in Rancho Cordova.

Stephens moved to Anza in 2012. His way with bees has become well known, and it has become a good source of income for his family. His honey is popular in Anza Valley households.

“I have always enjoyed hiring and working with ex-servicemen,” he said. “They have the attitude – we can get it done and nothing is impossible.”

An attitude that Stephens shares, he said.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.