Cover photo for Stephen Burdick Hand's Obituary
Stephen Burdick Hand Profile Photo

Stephen Burdick Hand

July 21, 1941 — January 8, 2024

Waveland, MS

Stephen Burdick Hand


Stephen Burdick Hand

July 21, 1941 - January 8, 2024

Steve Hand was known for his love and dedication to his dogs and was equally loyal to the many friends that he made and kept throughout his lifetime of public service. He was generous with his expertise in historic preservation, landscaping, architecture, politics, management, and construction. He took a special interest in helping young people and was delighted to be Uncle Steve to his three nieces. 

Steve was born in Bronxville, New York, July 21, 1941, to Faith Seiple Hand and Edward Sayer Hand, Sr.. He grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and loved his summers in Amagansett, Long Island, especially his time at the Devon Yacht Club. Steve attended Trinity Pawling school in Pawling, New York, where he was known for his “love of discussion which has turned many a boring class into one of considerable interest,” as well as for having his own “International Fan Club.”

Steve attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and was drafted into the US Army in 1963. He trained in 1964 with Battery C 7th Battalion (“Garry Owen”) 17th Artillery 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. He then served one tour of duty in 1965 among the earliest combat troops sent to Vietnam, where he was stationed at An Khe with the 3rd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). He was promoted to Sergeant and honorably discharged before returning to complete his bachelor’s degree in economics at Bowdoin.

After graduation, Steve lived in Philadelphia, New Haven, and Washington, D.C., where he worked in news and politics. He was particularly proud of his work as Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary for Senator Winston L. Prouty of Vermont and Massachusetts Senator Edward W. Brooke III, the first popularly elected Black senator. Throughout his life, Steve kept in touch with both men and their families and fellow staff members from his time there. Ralph Neas, who was a colleague from those days, remembered Steve as, “a man deeply committed to social justice and one of the truest American patriots I have ever known. Steve was also as astute politically and as fine a writer as anyone I have worked with on Capitol Hill.”

In 1982 he earned a Master of Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where he fell in love with Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. His Master’s thesis was on the history of the gardens of the Vieux Carré, and after graduating Steve was Director of the Vieux Carré Commission in the 1980s and 90s. There he was charged with protecting and preserving the historic character of the French Quarter. Steve worked hard to educate people about the history and architecture of the neighborhoods and encouraged them to renovate and restore their properties to maintain the historic composition of the Quarter. President Bill Clinton appointed Steve to two terms on the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation from 1994 to 2001. Also in 1994 Steve became Executive Director of the French Market Corp. where he was responsible for the large section of the French Quarter owned by the city, from Jackson Square to the French Market. During his tenure he encouraged the clean-up and renewal of the Market, turning it from a burden on the city’s budget to a profitable endeavor, all while he and his dogs made life-long friends among the many public employees and local businesspeople.

When his beloved black lab Peter (named for his Sergeant in Vietnam) died Steve was bereft and didn’t think he could ever have another dog. His friends at the 8th District Police Department knew that was just what he needed. Responding to a call from Commander Gerald “Jerry” Ursin to help deal with a guy from the Quarter who was giving them a hard time, Steve discovered this unruly guy was a black lab puppy, with whom he immediately fell in love and quickly named Sarge.

Steve and Sarge retired from the French Market Corp. in 2003 and moved to Waveland, Mississippi, where he continued his involvement in local, state and national politics as well as serving on the Waveland Planning and Zoning Commission and stayed active in landscape and architecture by founding South Coast Builders with partner Joe Besancon. His next dog, Hogan, destroyed dog toys, furniture, trash cans, and leashes with equal abandon, challenging Steve for most stubborn member of the household. He proved Steve’s loyal companion through many trials, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when he took possession of the bed in their RV while Steve slept on the couch. 

Katrina left Steve’s own house (and his dog’s pool) in a mess, but in addition to a complete renovation of his home and neighboring rental property, Steve also used his skills in architecture and building to help friends and the Gulf Coast community. “The storm demolished the family beach house and Steve was the first person I called to help rebuild it,” remembers Mark Meijer, a friend from LSU. “Of course, Steve jumped right in and worked with my mother-in-law to rebuild the home everyone loved so much. Steve spent countless hours making sure everything was done right and made sure the home was built better than the original. In Steve fashion, he never complained, but you had to do it his way since he was such a perfectionist!”

That perfectionism extended to his Christmas cards and presents which signaled the start of the holiday season. For his nieces, the excitement of Christmas began with the arrival, long before Steve himself, of several enormous boxes carefully wrapped in brown paper, with a return address from the Gulf Coast. The contents—presents carefully chosen, wrapped, and labeled from Steve and his dog—were unpacked and placed under the tree on Christmas Eve, the largest single contribution to the pile. Christmas morning Uncle Steve’s presents inevitably hit their mark—the perfect gift for each niece, grand-niece and nephew; a beautiful pin and Café du Monde beignet mix for his beloved sister-in-law; fascinating books for his brother and many in-laws; and always one or two presents to make everyone laugh. Steve was the star of Christmas, and it won’t be the same without him.

Steve will be greatly missed by his surviving family: Bear the goldendoodle; his brother Edward S. Hand and sister-in-law Susan O. Hand; three nieces Samantha Fratus, Lindsley Rice, and Bailey Jeffrey and their families; and his many chosen family in Mississippi, Louisiana, and around the world.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Friends of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County, P.O. Box 2274, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39521-2274, or your favorite animal rescue charity.


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