In Memoriam

 
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In Memory of

Steven M. Certak

March 16, 2019

Obituary

Steven M. Cernak passed away in March 2019 after a valiant battle with cancer.

He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather and a devoted friend. Through over 3 decades of public service, Steve dedicated his career to improving and promoting progress across communities in Florida, Texas, New York, and New Jersey.

From 2012 until present, Steve served as the CEO of Port Everglades in Broward County, FL. Port Everglades achieved many important, historical milestones under his leadership. He grew the operating revenue at Port Everglades by 17.5 percent and oversaw the construction of new cruise facilities and the start of the largest capital improvement project in the Port's history. Steve received accolades from leadership at all levels of government and throughout the maritime industry. Just last month, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) recognized Steve as the recipient of its 2019 Cruise Award and he was named as one of the South Florida Business Journal's 250 Power Leaders. Steve was the immediate past Chairman of the AAPA and immediate past Chairman of the Florida Ports Council.

Prior to his role in Broward County, Steve was the CEO and Chief Engineer at the Port of Galveston, in Galveston, TX. During his tenure at the Port of Galveston, revenues doubled and it became the top cruise home port in the Gulf of Mexico. His proactive response to the catastrophic damage at the Port from Hurricane Ike in 2008 allowed cargo operations to resume in just eight days and cruise operations to resume in 50 days.

Steve started his career as an engineer at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Throughout his accomplished career, Steve's ethos was to treat people with empathy and respect. It was this lesson he most frequently imparted, knowing that with a foundation of kindness, even the most difficult obstacles could be overcome.

Steve grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the son of Stefan and Ebba, both immigrants to the United States. His childhood included fond memories of exploring New York City and participating in Swedish cultural events, learning about the country of his mother's origin. Steve's lifelong passion for photography was developed in the earliest years of his life, when he mastered the skills of photography and developing film. The image of him behind a camera will be familiar to many who knew him. His thousands of photos are a roadmap to some of the greatest adventures of his life. 

Steve leaves behind his wife Cindy, his devoted partner of more than 40 years. Their story started in New York, where Cindy gave the greasy mechanic with a broken-down car a chance to take her out on a date. Their first date was to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Notoriously late, Steve drove them into the parking lot just in time to hear the last note. Cindy gave him another chance anyway, and from there, they traveled the world together. Their favorite moments were taking long walks in the mountains of Colorado, on the streets of New York City, or on the beaches of Galveston and Fort Lauderdale. Steve deeply loved Cindy's parents and brothers. His in-laws took him in as their own, without hesitation, when Steve was tragically preceded in death by his parents as a young man. His memories with his in-laws on a sailboat or just talking around the kitchen table - were some of his most beloved.

As an only child, Steve developed enduring friendships in childhood and as an adult. His friends became his treasured companions and he referred to some of his closest friends as his brothers.

Steve was quick to say that his greatest accomplishment was the family he built, together with his wife. He was the proud father of two children, Steven and Kimberly. When they were young, he cherished long summer evenings at the town pool, where he would spend hours catching them as they jumped in, again and again. He was thrilled to share with them his lifelong devotion to the New York Knicks and the Grateful Dead. He loved their spouses, Meredith and Dennis, as his own.

There was no greater love in Steve's life than his grandchildren. He was quick to share pictures of his grandkids with anyone who crossed his path, even if they didn't ask. His first grandchild, Diego, shared with Poppy a love for ice cream and building blocks and laying train tracks, activities they shared together at every opportunity. When Diego learned of his Poppy's passing, he said, "But, Poppy is still real." Yes, Diego, Poppy is still a real person. Steve's second grandchild, Mateo, said "Papa" referring to Steve - as one of his very first words. And, his heart expanded exponentially when he learned he would welcome a third grandchild later this year. His last words and smile were reserved for that baby, for whom he said, "I love you."

Steve's family will be celebrating his life and his legacy privately, but welcomes hearing your memories which can be shared at  porteverglades@broward.org.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the following organizations:

The Seafarers' House at Port Everglades: http://seafarershouse.org/donation/

The United Way of Galveston: http://uwgalv.org/get-involved/give/

Published in Sun-Sentinel from Mar. 19 to Mar. 20, 2019

 


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Last modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2019 01:20:34 PM