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John S. Steel

February 5, 1928

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Obituary

John Schultz Steel died at the age of 93 on September 20, 2021, at Kendal at Longwood in Kennett Square, PA.

John is survived by his wife of 64 years, Gertrude Gerbis Steel (Trudie); his sister, Elizabeth Ann Martens; three children: John Jr. (Katrina) of Northport, NY, Lisa of Washington, DC, and David (Ann) of Singapore; his grandson Cullen Steel; and many nephews, nieces and extended family and friends.  He was predeceased by his older brother, Charles Leighton Steel, III.

Born on February 5, 1928, in Newark, NJ, to Gertrude Schultz Steel and Charles Leighton Steel, Jr., he grew up in Teaneck, NJ, as the youngest of three children. He attended Duke University on an NROTC scholarship, where he lettered in lacrosse and was a member of the SAE fraternity.  Upon graduating in 1950 with a degree in economics, John proudly served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. John and Trudie met in 1955 on the ski slopes of Vermont.

John spent his entire career in the aluminum industry, working briefly for Alcoa before moving to Reynolds Metals Company for 35 years. His career placed him at the forefront of two issues that remain relevant today. In the early 1970s, he led Reynolds’ initiative with the automotive industry to improve fuel efficiency by substituting lighter-weight aluminum for steel. Later he managed Reynolds Recycling Division during a period when the recycling of aluminum cans nearly doubled.  He ended his career as National Sales and Marketing Manager for the Mill Products Division.

In retirement, John and Trudie lived for 17 years in Harwich Port, MA, on Cape Cod, where they led an active life and entertained countless family and friends. John spent the last nine years of his life at Kendal at Longwood. Moving to Chester County and spending his last few summers in southeastern PA brought his life full circle – John spent the first five summers of his life at Paradise Farm Camp in the Chester County town of Downingtown where his father was camp director and mother, camp nurse.

It has been said that “it is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts”.  Few phrases are more apt to describe John as he was a man of many interests, hobbies, and talents. He was an avid golfer, tennis player, skier, paddle tennis player, sailor, craftsman, home renovator and dog-lover. In retirement, he added to his repertoire, becoming a lobsterman, boater, fisherman, a reader of history and an avid bicyclist. John and Trudie, often joined by friends, took annual bicycle trips in Europe.

John was a prolific artist in retirement and his studio was always full of works using multiple media including oil, watercolor, papier-mache, wire, clay, and ceramics. The breadth of his creativity ranged from traditional to the whimsical, where he relied on his unique imagination and rich sense of humor. John often captured the complexities and absurdities of the human condition in his art.  His artwork was displayed and enjoyed at many shows on Cape Cod, at Kendal, and in private homes.

Sitting still was never one of John’s hobbies. John took his last ski run at the age of 80, played golf into his late 80’s, stood on his head at 90 and took his last European bike trip with Trudie at the age of 85. John maintained a great sense of humor to the end, as the staff at Kendal, who provided him with exceptional care, can attest.

While John had many interests and hobbies, there was never any doubt that family was always John’s greatest love. He was a gentle, kind man, a devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, a family-connector, and a great friend.  He was loved by many and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

There will be a celebration of John’s life scheduled at a future date in Boyertown, PA.

“To have played with enthusiasm, laughed with exuberance, and sung with exultation. To go down to dust and dreams knowing that the world is a little bit better, and that even a single life breathes easier because we have lived well, that is to have succeeded!”               ---------Ralph Waldo Emerson

Contributions in his memory to: Harwich Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 101, South Harwich, MA 02661  https://harwichconservationtrust.org

Chester Children's Chorus, 112 Park Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081  https://www.swarthmore.edu/chester-childrens-chorus

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