They’re critical cogs in the wheel of Oviedo’s past, present, and future.
They could be considered Oviedo’s power couple. Longtime residents and community advocates Stephen McKenney Steck and Desta L. Horner are indeed integral threads in the town’s fabric, helping nurture the area for more than four decades.
Following their respective retirements – Desta from Seminole County Public Schools and Stephen from the helm of radio and TV station WMFE – the two continued their work as cofounders of the Carroll McKenny Foundation for Public Media, a local podcast serving Seminole County that sunsets this year after a 10-year run.
Now, the parents of three and grandparents of five are regrouping and planning the next chapter in their 29-year marriage. All signs point to a continuation of service to the community in some capacity.
“We would like to be remembered as a couple who understood that to whom much is given, much should be expected,” says Stephen, paraphrasing the Biblical verse. “We’d like to be remembered that we gave back.”
Desta, which means very happy in Ethiopian, was born in Key West and moved to Central Florida at age 13. She made Oviedo her home in 1990 after marrying Stephen. The two met through WMFE when Stephen was seeking someone to chair the station’s Seminole County Advisory Committee. Desta admits to being a bit smitten, and she took the job.
An educator at heart, Desta went on to serve 31 years as a high-school teacher in Seminole County. A graduate of the University of Florida, she also holds a master’s degree from the University of Central Florida. Desta loved her years in the public-school system, shaping the minds of young adults.
“Teaching is a thrill,” she says. “I love being with kids and sharing.”
Locally, Desta is well-known for her work with the Oviedo Historical Society (OHS) over the past 10 years and as the docent at the Lawton House Museum. Today, Desta enjoys visiting local elementary schools as an OHS ambassador to pass on the rich history and legacies of the 94-year-old town.
“It is great outreach,” says Desta, “and the kids need to know their history.”
Say Hi to Stephen
When WMFE relocated the station’s HQ to Highway 50 in 1976, moving to nearby Oviedo was the logical choice for Stephen. He laid down roots here in 1980.
“When I moved to Oviedo, there were two traffic signals and the population was 3,900,” Stephen recalls. “We live in the old city center, which offers a slice of suburbia and rural countryside in the city.”
Hired in 1972 as WMFE’s chief executive officer, Stephen served 36 consecutive years sculpting Central Florida public television and radio.
“I am very proud to be the face and voice of establishing public TV and radio in Central Florida,” he says.
Aside from his numerous accomplishments throughout his career, it’s Stephen’s personal life that jumps off the page. He is an avid cyclist, and at age 75, Stephen is maintaining a streak of riding his bicycle an average of 18 miles a day for more than 1,500 consecutive days. That’s approximately 27,500 total miles, far enough to circle the Earth at the equator. Stephen has completed a 3,200-mile cross-country ride and is about to finish the final stage of a solo bike trip from Maine to Key West.
But that’s only half of the story. While Stephen began cycling in the 1950s and was invited to compete in the Pan Am games, he eventually lost interest in the sport. In the early 1990s, he decided to try marathoning, instead, though he had never run a road race or even a 5K.
“It’s the challenge,” Stephen explains. “I love a challenge. I heard about marathons, so I ran one in Detroit in 1993 followed by Disney World’s marathon in 1995. Then, someone said something about the 50 States Marathon Club, and that was it. Another challenge.”
Stephen not only proceeded to run a marathon in every state, but he became a member of the prestigious Seven Continents Club, in which runners complete a marathon on every continent in the world. All told, Stephen has run 11 international marathons.
“It’s an affirmation of accomplishment,” he says. “I have never not finished.”
Stephen’s best marathon time is 5:04; his worst, eight hours. Fittingly, his last marathon was in Athens, Greece, finishing in the famed Panathenaic Stadium that hosted the first modern-day Olympics in 1896.
“I hung up my shoes after Athens,” Stephen says, “and I got back on my bike.”
That was 13 years ago. And the wheels just keep on turning.
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