Stephen James Gauger, who worked at the late Gerson and Judith Leiber’s estate in Springs for 41 years, “often boasted that he planted almost every single plant and tree on the property, excluding only a few oak and cedar trees,” his son, Wayne Gauger, wrote. “Every fence, gate trellis, and walkway was hand-built by Stephen, with some help from his brothers, Joseph or Christopher.”
He died on Dec. 21 at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital of complications of Stage 4 lung cancer. He was 63 and had been ill for 10 months.
Mr. Gauger “loved the outdoors and could always be found hunting or fishing, even from a young age,” his son wrote. He attended Southampton College, where he studied horticulture, first going to work for the Leibers when he was 19.
“While his life’s work was on land his true passion was on the water,” according to his son. “He could always be found working on the bay: lifting pound traps on Gardiner’s Island, setting gill nets in Cherry Harbor, digging for hard clams, dredging for scallops, and rod-and-reel fishing for everything else. Although he does not share the name of Lester, King, Bennett, or Anderson he was, by every meaning of the definition, a bayman.”
A Sag Harbor native, Mr. Gauger was born in Southampton on June 28, 1959, the second of four children of Wayne Otto Gauger and the former Mary Ann Santacroce. He grew up on Suffolk Street in Sag Harbor, attending the Stella Maris School and then Pierson High School.
He later moved to Chapel Lane in Springs. “He proudly dedicated the last 10 years of his life to the Amagansett Fire Department, as a member of Company Four, fire police,” said his son, who lives in Amagansett.
He is also survived by a sister, Anne Gauger of Binghamton, N.Y., two brothers, Christopher Gauger and Joseph Gauger of East Hampton, and by three grandchildren, Brielle, Chase, and Luella Gauger.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Louse Point in Springs, where his ashes will be dispersed. The family has suggested donations to the Amagansett Fire Department, P.O. Box 911, Amagansett 11930.