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Steve Danishek and Dee Tezelli : Scaling new heights
The year 1975 was a significant one for Dee Tezelli and Steve Danishek. The couple married that year and opened a travel agency in Seattle, Washington. The two shared a passion for traveling and exploring the world. Over the years, the couple grew into a family, and their business grew into one of the largest travel agencies in Washington state.
"We've always been big advocates for getting people to other places, to other countries," Steve said. "If I had my druthers, a high school diploma would be accompanied by a passport."
After they sold their chain of travel agencies in 1988, Steve and Dee opened TMA Travel, which counted Seattle Pacific among its clients. For decades, Steve helped arrange travel for SPU's student athletes, professors, and administrators, and for mission trips for SPRINT, the Seattle Pacific Reachout International program.
"I got to know the school and a lot of the professors and students while I was handling all the travel for SPU," Steve said. "I would see freshman athletes come in and develop each year until they graduated. I got to watch the progression of many hundreds of SPU students as they progressed each year through the campus. I was very impressed with the culture and the values that SPU represented."
Steve and Dee's experiences with SPU led the couple to establish an endowed scholarship at the University to assist students who are interested in pursuing writing careers, a career dream Dee deferred for years.
With the right encouragement and opportunities, Dee might have become an author earlier in her life. Growing up in her native country of Turkey, Dee occasionally found stories forming in her head entertaining enough to carry over to paper. She gave the prose titles and plots, and her friends liked them. Her parents, however, encouraged Dee to find a more stable career.
"In those times, becoming an accomplished author or a classic painter were thought of as enjoyable fantasies," Dee said.
She took up writing again after her adult son Murat passed away in 2013. Ten years later, Dee is the author of nearly 35 multicultural murder mystery e-books and printed novels for young adults on Amazon. The books draw heavily from Steve and Dee's travel adventures, climbing peaks around the world.
In the United States, they climbed Colorado's Mount Elbert, the highest point in the Rocky Mountains at 14,433 feet. They have summited Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in Washington; Mount Wheeler in New Mexico; and Boundary Peak in Nevada among many other high points in the U.S.
Internationally, they've traveled to Dee's native country of Turkey to climb Mount Olympus. And they reached the top of Mount Fuji in two days during a stopover in Tokyo, Japan.
"There are four main trails, and it was all trail hiking," Steve reflected. "I think we overnighted at 9,000 feet, which left another 3,000 feet before sunrise the following day." Their experiences traveling and climbing have provided the backdrops and inspiration for Dee's novels.
"Traveling is my way of immersing myself into a different culture. We don't go there for photo ops. It's learning about diversity by talking with people," Dee explained. "When we were in Japan, we came across all of the shrines, the Sea of Trees, and so many true and very touching stories of their culture."
Upon her return from Japan, Dee wrote her most popular e-book, The Man from Mount Fuji.
"Creative writing is a special talent," Dee said. "But it can be buried under life's responsibilities." Steve and Dee hope their endowment scholarship to be bolstered in the future by a bequest in their will can be the encouragement a student needs to pursue and hone their writing abilities and talents.
Dee's books can be found at the Dee Tezelli Bookshelf on Amazon, including her latest, How I Left This World: Yet Am Not Far Away, a compilation of five stories published in honor of their late son Murat to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his passing.
Shelly Ngo, editor, Response magazine and SPU Stories