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Businessman Roger Stenbak's legacy is integrity, kindness

CANDIA — Even at age 65, when many others are eagerly anticipating a well-earned life of golf, travel and grandkids, Roger Stenbak was eying fresh business ventures.

Prior to his sudden death on June 17, the 66-year old Candia man had, after all, made quite a name for himself in the New England business community and left behind a lasting legacy for his wife of 43 years, Jan, their two sons and five grandchildren.

A graduate of Western Washington University, Stenbak put his degree in environmental design to use, first in the Peace Corps, and then later in life when he founded Stenbak Design, a successful building and design enterprise in Bedford he owned for 20 years. He also discovered success with SkyVenture, an indoor sky diving adventure center in Nashua.

Sandy LaRose worked with Stenbak for more than 12 years, primarily with Stenbak Design. She said he was a man of integrity who worked hard for his clients, offering them the most for their money while focused his designs primarily on restaurants, auto dealerships and pet-oriented business such as humane societies, doggie day care centers and veterinary hospitals.

“He was very well liked in the community, very helpful to the people who he worked with, and he took pride in everything he did,” she said.

In addition to his New Hampshire business interests, Stenbak also had profitable entrepreneurial ventures in Plymouth, Mass., and in Maine, according to his wife, who said that his last endeavor may have been the one he enjoyed most.

Last year, Stenbak became a partner with Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse, a company for which he had constructed several restaurants. Within a short time, he had learned the names of all 180-plus employees working at the company’s Bedford, Manchester and Nashua locations, according to his obituary.

“He was always an excellent cook and bread baker, and so he really enjoyed being part of the restaurant business, not just to increase sales, but to please the customers and find ways for them to come in and also to make sure the staff was always happy,” said Jan Stenbak, who met her husband on Christmas Eve of 1968 in Iran, where each was serving in the Peace Corps.

“People always ask me what the key to being married for 43 years ago is. The answer is easy,” she said. “I picked the right person.”

She said her husband always had a plethora of friends, first in Washington, where he grew up, and then in New Hampshire, where the couple lived in Nashua from 1977 through eight years ago, when they moved to a farm house in Candia.

In fact, Jan Stenbak said with only two-days notice, more than 200 people attended a picnic to celebrate her husband’s life on Saturday.

“Everyone kept saying how kind he was, and that was really the perfect adjective for him, because above all else, he was very, very kind and generous to all those he encountered,” she said.

“I keep walking around and expecting him to come home from work and sit in the big chair and watch the Red Sox,” Jan Stenbak said. “I’m left with a very heavy heart these days. We all are.”

Roger Stenbak was also known for his Mr. Fix-it skills and was an avid fly fisherman who enjoyed traveling to Maine and Alaska with his friends.

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