We Lost Spoono Today

Burning Man announced today the loss of beloved Department of Public Works staff member Scott “Spoono” Stephenson. Spoono passed away overnight on the playa, in the city he loved most.

Stephenson was in his late 50s and died of apparent natural causes, according to Pershing County officials. Stephenson had been in Gerlach and on the playa since April supporting construction of Black Rock City. His passing will have an enormous impact on the Burning Man community.

“Spoono has been a fixture of our DPW since 2005,” said Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell. “In 2005 he was one of the first to depart for Mississippi to help residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, working, among other things, as a cook for the team that grew to become Burners Without Borders. He will be missed by many of us including myself.”

Spoono was a founding crew member of Black Rock Solar, working tirelessly to install solar arrays across Nevada for those who would benefit most — schools, hospitals, tribes, and other non-profit organizations — for six years. He’d been a runner for DPW’s purchasing department for 10 years and cooked for work weekends for equally as long, as well as handling cooking for early arrival crews on the ranch for several years. He was on point to cook for the Man crew when we had to rebuild the man in 2007.

“Spoon was a deeply generous man, with a huge heart, who gave so much love and care though his food,”  said Tom Price, one of the founders of Burners Without Borders and founding Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. “He was a miracle worker with food — I once watched him feed 15 volunteers for a week with only $50. He always worked himself to exhaustion, but didn’t have a lick of quit in him — there was never a morning you woke up he didn’t have coffee on, strong enough to strip paint. And if you were really good, or really lucky, it came with a side of piping hot beignets.”

Spoono embodied the best of Burning Man values and culture. He was generous to a fault, giving all that he had to the community he loved. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Burning Man is providing support and grief counseling to staff and volunteers on the playa during this difficult time.

Plans for a celebration of life and memorial service will be announced shortly.

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

25 Comments on “We Lost Spoono Today

  • Tabasco says:

    In 2007 I made took a piece of from 2006 and made you a spoon at a blacksmith setup on playa.

    It was a gift from all the staff for you, you had been feeding all the people who were rebuilding the man that year. Thank you, I’m honored to have been able to do something for you when you had and have done so much for so many others.


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  • Bruce Rogow says:

    I met Spoon in 2007 when he drove all the way down to San Diego to pick up our Suntrakker II solar car to be on display next to the man. Meeting him was like having a taste of the Playa for a few hours. I remember thinking how strange it was seeing a DPW truck and trailer at this private high school. Gave the place a little edge. We worked together for an hour figuring out how to get the car on the trailer. He was great. We had lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant where he told me stories of the DPW and how he’d been a cook for the crew. You could tell he loved you all. He was easy going and we had great time. Just found a picture of him standing behind the truck securing the car behind the trailer. Very sad to think he’s gone so soon.

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  • Jammon says:

    If the autopsy reveals his death was related to an allergic reaction to insect bites…

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  • Matt Matt says:

    That’s very sad news. He sounds like a wonderful person and the kind of guy who you only meet through Burning Man and who embodies the spirit of Burning Man and DPW.

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  • JetFuel says:

    I loved this man and spent a lot of time with him in the desert over the last 15 years.
    I was passing through Reno last year and just barely caught him in the parking lot at Jub. He’d heard I was there and came to shake my hand. The group I was with was on the roll, so I had to keep conversation short. You never know when it’ll be your last handshake and hug. I already miss you, Spoon.

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  • Amber Pixie says:

    I’ve not been to the Playa, so never knew Spoono. We lost someone at Transformus this year. As a Sanctuary co-lead and support at Transformus and Ignite!, I am happy to be available for anyone who needs to talk. It doesn’t have to be now, maybe even a few weeks down the line! <3

    Condolences to Spoono's friends and family, and love to all y'all!

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  • BF says:

    My one time meeting Spoono was as a drop in volunteer for a few days in Pearlington, MS 10 years ago to help Burners Without Borders with yard clean ups and the removal of destroyed homes. The whole BWB group was amazing. But Spoono, through his creative food and kind spirit , was clearly an anchor that enabled and sustained the team to help so many people in the area in a time of need. I only crossed paths with him that one occasion, but he made a strong impression. One fitting way to honor him could be performing volunteer service in one’s community and the world.

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  • Chad Lester says:

    Gosh Spoono… I’ll always remember your beignets… tirelessly working your magic over hot oil in the desert for a great cause. Generous, warm, a bright light. Your energy made the world a better place.

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  • HoneyBee says:

    In honor of Spoono’s contribution to our community, I urge you to bring a spoon to the Temple. Pass the word, far and wide. After the Temple Burn, any melted spoons found will be gathered together to make something to remember him by.

    Condolences to all who knew him.

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  • Ranger Lothos says:

    I’ve known Spoon for years,now this this years burn is not going to be my best one.He will not be forgotten.My heart goes out to to all the workers on the playa right now.

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  • julee says:

    Amazing man and friend will always remember you

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  • Crunkykd says:

    Welcome home, Spoon

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  • *chad* says:

    Thank you spoon for the three weeks in 2006. Rock steady…..

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  • ranger osho says:

    For all who knew Spoono better, my condolences for your loss. He was one of my playa heroes. I wish I’d spent more time with him. He was an inspiration. Love and Peace

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  • Sam says:

    Spoon died of insect bites? That just canceled any chance that I am going this year since i am also allergic to some insects. Thanks for letting me know.

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  • vu says:

    Fond memories of Spoono, gone too soon: wandering alone across the playa then climbing up onto his black light art car to share my first burn in 2008. A magical experience, never to be forgotten. Thank you Spoono for sharing.

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  • The Cowboy says:

    I am devistated to hear this ! To a man I considered a friend since 2005 in Pearlington,ms B.W.B
    will never forget the firt day you showed up in the giant suburban and just always happy everyday
    I can say I learned alot from you. Not to mention your cooking !!!! I will miss you friend and
    have a spinach bacon salad you taught me to make in honor of you today . you will be missed.

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  • CVAN says:

    Hey Scott…
    I just got off of the phone with Bob G, and now I know.

    This year’s Burn just didn’t happen for me…everything was just off. The vibe that I’ve felt in years past was missing this time, and now I know why.

    I’m so glad that we had those few hours with Bob G and Beth on a beautiful spring day at Hub.

    See you around, bud.


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