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Saturday, August 5, 2023
11:00am - 12:30pm (Central time)
A Renaissance man of the Permian Basin and father figure to many throughout Midland passed reluctantly from this earth Sunday, July 30, no doubt in search of one final, quiet meadow where breeze stirs and sunlight dapples a gentle rill in which trout wait to be brought into the light by a well-cast fly.
Ever one to determine his own fate, Stephen Lee Chandler heeded Dylan Thomas’ admonition against going gentle into that good night. Instead, he raged against the dying of the light, insisting to the very end that he would be back on his feet soon–perhaps to step again into his beloved Jack’s Creek or to gather his children and grandchildren for another sunset bonfire on their annual beach visit.
Steve was born April 27, 1949, in Dallas to the affable John “Hal” Chandler and his firecracker wife, Marcia. The family moved to Midland in 1953 so Hal could open a Travelers Insurance office. Marcia, who became a formidable Midlander in her own right, cried when she stepped off the plane and saw the flat landscape awaiting her.
At that point, it seemed unlikely the family would sink such deep roots in the dusty boomtown, living in a hotel until they finally found a house for sale. Hal and Marcia then made a hobby of moving around old Midland, buying, fixing and selling their homes decades before HGTV turned house flipping into a national pastime. Steve enjoyed driving around town years later, pointing out all the houses he lived in as a child.
Between bouts of boxing up his belongings, he lived the quintessential midcentury childhood, riding his bike with his good friend Denny Pickett and stirring up some trouble despite the steadying influence of Denny’s father, Judge Perry Pickett, the pipe-smoking Atticus Finch of the Tall City.
Steve attended Sam Houston Elementary, San Jacinto Junior High and Midland High School, playing on the tennis team. He sailed to the Bahamas with Sea Scouts and earned his first great fishing stories in Canada.
At Texas Tech University, he pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon and met his first wife, Barbara Chandler.
After graduating in 1971, he joined the Army and went through basic training in South Carolina before being medically discharged and returning to Texas Tech for graduate school. He then accepted a job as an Associate Landman at Texaco despite Marcia’s strong desire that he become a lawyer.
Steve had never heard of a landman and had no clue what they did, but took the job anyway, moving to Houston, where his first son, Cory, was born in 1977.
That same year, Texaco transferred Steve back to his hometown. He arrived once again during a boom, when houses were in short supply, but snatched on up as it was being built and soon welcomed his second son, Andy, born in 1979.
In the meantime, Steve proved to his mother and everyone else that becoming a landman was an inspired career decision. He learned much from his longtime mentor and good friend, Buck Watkins, including how to card shark.
Buck, then Land Manager for Texaco, hosted a lunchtime game with anyone who dared join him. If you couldn’t play cards, you weren’t inclined to do well with Buck. Buck would laugh when he won, but Steve stuck it to him enough to become a worthy opponent. Steve would fondly remember his close relationship with Buck the rest of his life.
Upon Buck’s retirement in 1985, Steve was promoted to Division Land Manager for Texaco’s Central U.S. E&P. These were the wilder days in the oil and gas business, which included unconfirmed rumors of landmen throwing water balloons off the roof of the Texaco Building.
Among his exploits that can be confirmed, Steve was a member of the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL) Certification Committee, charged with revising the first CPL Examination; served as an EYC youth leader at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; volunteered as the Texaco Loaned Executive for United Way for five years; and served as an Assistant Coach and Treasurer for Mid Cities Little League, helping it move to its current location. Cory and Andy remember carrying grass sod to lay in the outfields during practices at the newly built facilities.
An active member of the Permian Basin Landmen’s Association (PBLA), Steve was elected to the Board of Directors twice, and helped start the PBLA Skeet Shoot along with Eric Hanson, for whom the event is now named, among others. He became an avid sport shooter and game hunter, enjoying pack hunts for elk and deer with friends including his fraternity brother and Midland County’s longest-sitting District Judge, George D. “Jody” Gilles.
In 1989, he married Lucy Cuellar, who he would love fiercely to the end of his days. He adopted her sons, Tony and Louis, embracing them as his own.
Texaco then decided Steve should transfer again, this time to Denver, Colo., where he worked through the early 1990s, frequenting the famous Tattered Cover Book Store and taking advantage of his close proximity to the Rocky Mountains.
He made a final return to Midland in 1993, this time to survive rounds of layoffs during a bust cycle.
Steve stayed on with Chevron after its merger with Texaco in 2001, later serving as Land Manager. He retired from Chevron in 2004, becoming Land Manager for MB Exploration’s Midland office. He later worked for ConocoPhillips, Energen, and Diamondback Energy, devoting time to one of his great loves—mentoring and training young professionals in the land business.
He enjoyed going on recruiting trips to universities and enticing young landmen and women to come to Midland, where he drew on his 48 years of experience to enrich their careers. He was proud to see their accomplishments, treating them as extensions of his ever-growing family and even inviting some on pheasant hunting trips with his sons in the Panhandle.
He spent the final decade of his career at Diamondback, and felt at peace with retiring from a company full of people he enjoyed and respected immensely.
Steve had a philosopher’s mind and a poet’s heart. He read voraciously—often somehow watching TV at the same time—and could have been a successful artist or author had he chosen to pursue those paths. Sadly, his body decided it would not allow him to fulfill his retirement plans of taking up writing and painting again, along with woodworking, compiling a book on Teddy Roosevelt and assembling black powder rifles.
Steve always “rode for the brand,” as friend Mike Gray would say. He was proud of his profession and worked passionately for the companies lucky enough to hire him. He poured himself into his work and made sure his employers got the very best he could give them, making lifelong friends at each stop.
Among his many recognitions, he was honored to be the first recipient of the PBLA’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing his dedication and advancement of the profession.
Despite his passion for work, however, Steve was intentional about creating time to take his sons and their families on excursions to hunt, fly fish, sport shoot or spend time on the beach.
From Jack’s Creek in New Mexico to the Conejos River in Colorado or crop rings outside Dalhart, he loved spending time in the field with loved ones and found pleasure nurturing their passion for the outdoors, often content to sit and watch them in action rather than participate himself.
He derived great satisfaction from doting on his grandchildren and, while he was an only child, he became part of a large and loving family through his marriage to Lucy, remaining close to them even after her passing.
He is preceded in death by the love of his life, Lucy, and his parents, Hal and Marcia.
His passing is mourned by his sons, Louie Chandler; Cory, his wife Summer and their children, Mason and Hadley; Tony, his wife Melissa and their children, Angel, Mercedes, Nathaniel, and Kaitlyn; Andy, his wife Rachel and their children, Grace, Gray, John, and Eloise; and cousins.
His family appreciates the outpouring of support from the oil and gas family in the Permian Basin. Please know that you all held a special place in his heart and he was immensely proud to be counted as one of you.
Services will be held 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 5 at Christ Church Anglican in Midland, 5501 N. Midkiff Road, under the direction of Andrews Corgill Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, please honor his memory by contributing to Safe Place of the Permian Basin, Safeplacenow.com/online-