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Stephen Vincent Wilkins was called to Heaven on September 2, 2023.  He was in the presence of family and friends at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans in Grand Rapids, Michigan.      

Stephen was born on June 5, 1941, in Los Angeles, California, the second of three sons of William Thomas Wilkins Sr., and Anna Faye (Bowen) Wilkins.

Steve attended Palo Verde High School and Palo Verde College in Blythe, California, earning an associate degree. Following college, he was accepted into the Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.  He earned his wings in June 1963. Stephen completed his baccalaureate degree while in the Navy and earned his master’s degree from the Navy Post-graduate school in Monterey, California.

During his Navy career, he was an instructor pilot in addition to other assignments. As an instructor pilot, he often flew cross country with students. We can recall one flight when his way points took him directly over Blythe. While cruising overhead, Stephen called the Blythe airport and ask the representative there if he would call Stephen’s mother at home and tell her that if she stepped out her front door and looked up in the sky about 20 thousand feet, she would see him and his students streaking across the sky. She did, and we remember Mom saying that was an exciting moment for her.


During most of his flying career, Stephen was the Patrol Plane Commander on such aircraft as the P2V Neptune and the P-3 Orion.  During his Navy career Stephen spent three tours of duty in Viet Nam. In addition to the Legion of Merit he earned many other awards.  After a 22-year career, he retired from the Navy, as a Lieutenant Commander. For the two years prior to his retirement, he was the Commanding Officer of the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station (AFEES) in Atlanta, Georgia.  Following his Navy career, he accepted a management position at Lockheed Martin in Atlanta, and he retired from Lockheed Martin in 2000.

Stephen married Teresa Deflanders. She was called to Heaven in about 1980. He married Shayne Austine Blakeman. They later divorced and he married Carla Carpenter.


Stephen and Teresa Deflanders had the following child:  Tonia Pleshette (Wilkins) Schafer, and they adopted Teresa’s daughter Angelia Moore.  Stephen and Shayne Austine Blakeman adopted two sons:  Stephen Vincent Wilkins Jr. and Sean Austin Wilkins, both from Atlanta, Georgia.


Stephen is survived by his wife, Carla, his daughters, Tonia Pleshette (Wilkins) Schafer and Angelia Moore, sons Sean Austin Wilkins and Stephen Vincent Wilkins, Jr., his stepdaughters, Rhonda Randle and Carla Fredina Walker, and his younger brother Charles Leon Wilkins.  He also leaves behind many caring relatives and friends.  In addition to his parents, William Thomas Wilkins and Anna Faye Wilkins, Stephen was preceded in death by his older brother, William Thomas Wilkins, Jr.

The family is grateful for the care provided to Stephen by the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, and by the many friends and family members who cared for and kept Stephen in their prayers over the final months of his life.

We are thankful for his dedicated and unwavering service to the nation.

In the words of Stephen’s wife, Carla, on his behalf: “Have new wings: Flying with the Angels.”

A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 am on Friday, October 6, 2023, at Michigan Veteran Homes in Grand Rapids, 2950 Monroe Avenue NE, Grand Rapids.  Burial and Military Honors will follow.  Live Stream of the service will be available at :

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Stephen’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:

Cremation arrangements were entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, 616-452-3006, exclusive providers of Veterans Funeral Care. 



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