Steve Truax, a Marine who suffered psychological and physical wounds from the Vietnam War, didn't let that define him.
He is remembered as intellectually curious, outgoing and an engaged craftsman. He was a master-diamond cutter and Minneapolis small business owner with his wife.
Truax, 75, died May 25 of cancer linked by his doctors to exposure to toxic chemicals used by U.S. forces in Vietnam.
"He also suffered shrapnel wounds and a concussion [in 1968]," recalled Suzanne Truax, Steve's wife. "He woke up in a field hospital. He eventually was sent back" for the rest of his 13-month combat tour.
Steve and Suzanne Truax met in 1970 at the University of Minnesota.
"He was embracing civilian life and studying hard," Suzanne Truax said. "He was an enthusiastic suitor and also my friend and ally. He wanted to meet my widowed mother. Steve was compassionate."
During college, Truax worked with disabled kids and studied child psychology and science. However, he was unsure about his after-college career.
"Steve wanted to be an entrepreneur. He was a rock hound as a kid and he'd [tinkered] with jewelry making," Suzanne Truax said. "He went to the public library and found the American School of Diamond Cutting in Gardenville, Nevada."
He studied and apprenticed for three years under Leonard Ludel, a third-generation diamond cutter. Suzanne joined Steve in Nevada and they married in 1978.
In 1979, Steve Truax opened Truax Diamond Cutting in downtown Minneapolis. The business grew slowly at first, accelerating after Suzanne joined in 1983 to manage the books, operations and customer relations.
Steve Truax repaired and cut diamonds for jewelers and retail customers.
"We had a welcoming office and interesting customers," Suzanne Truax said. "Most of them found us through referral and word of mouth.
"It was a good small business that provided a good living and sense of satisfaction and self-determination. Steve had to be his own boss. And we were able to row our own boat. Steve was knowledgeable and respected in the industry."
Steve Truax retired in 2011 and the couple closed the business after 32 years. He read, walked the dogs and fished for trout in the streams of Minnesota and Wisconsin. He also volunteered for Project Healing Waters, taking disabled vets fishing.
Steve Truax, who wrestled with cancer and other war-related maladies, liked to help others.
"He was the most humble, nicest person I'd ever met in the industry," said Jenifer Bellefleur, co-owner of New Gild Jewelry in Linden Hills.
Steve Truax mentored the five-year owner of New Gild, following a corporate career. Bellefleur, also a military veteran, said she and Steve Truax shared stories about their stressful situations as veterans.
The week before Truax died, he texted Bellefleur to catch up and offer encouragement.
"He cared," Bellefleur said.
In addition to his wife, Truax is survived by three siblings, nieces, nephews and friends.
A private interment is planned this summer.