April 16, 2010
June 19, 2010 – 10:30 a.m.
United Methodist Church
Rose Hill Cemetery
United Methodist Church
1414 University Street
Pella, Iowa 50219
January 13, 1924 - April 16, 2010
Dr. Mildred R. Steele, age 86, died at Brookestone Village in Omaha on April 16, 2010.
A daughter of Joe and Gladys Romedahl, Mildred was born in rural Napier, Iowa, on January 13, 1924. She grew up with her older sister, Josephine Romedahl Said. In 1947 at Luther, Iowa, she married Otto Scott Steele, Jr., then a student at Boston University School of Theology. Throughout their 60-year marriage, they lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and in Stratford, Des Moines, Adel, Wellman, Monroe, Fayette, and Pella, Iowa. Four children were born to them, an infant who passed away shortly after birth, Marty in 1950, John in 1957, and Timothy in 1958.
Mildred graduated from Napier High School in 1942 and Simpson College in 1946. After 17 years as a full-time wife and mother, she began study as a graduate student, earning an M.A. in English from Drake University and a higher education specialist degree and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Iowa. She served as an English faculty member at Des Moines Area Community College and Drake University. At Central College she served on the English faculty and as Communication Skills Coordinator. She retired from Central College in 1990 as an emerita assistant professor. In 1976 she was one of 11 English professors nationwide honored for "outstanding undergraduate teaching" by Change magazine. In 1991 she received an Alumni Achievement Award from Simpson College.
Throughout her life, Mildred dedicated herself to the service of the United Methodist Church. In the 1940s she was active in the MYF, the Methodist Youth Caravan, and the Iowa Methodist Student Movement. After college graduation, she worked for the Wesley Foundation at the University of Iowa. In 1946, she was chosen one of two Methodist students from the USA to attend the World Student Christian Federation Conference in Switzerland. While in Europe, she was the first American student to address German Christian students since 1933. At the conference she met and later became engaged to Otto Steele, the other U. S. Methodist delegate to the conference.
Later, after marrying Otto, Mildred was a leader in the United Methodist Church in Iowa in their local churches and in the conference, serving in many capacities including president of the Iowa United Methodist Clergy Spouses and chair of the Higher Education Division of the Iowa United Methodist Church. She was a charter member of the United Methodist Church of Pella.
Mildred enjoyed research, writing, and speaking throughout her life. About a dozen of her poems appeared in print. She wrote essays published in books and scholarly journals. She was secretary of the National Association of Developmental Education, which published the results of her 20-year research study of college student persistence. She gave over 50 lectures across the state for Humanities Iowa. In her later years, she enjoyed researching and writing extensive volumes of family history.
After retirement, Otto and Mildred lived in their home in Pella until 2006. When Otto was diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease, they moved to Pella's Vriendschap Village. After Otto passed away in 2008, Mildred moved to Remington Heights Assisted Living Facility in Omaha. In November, 2009, after a stroke, she moved to Brookestone Village Nursing Care Facility in Omaha. On March 26, 2010, Mildred was honored as the Nebraska Merit Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc.
Mildred was preceded in death by her infant son; her parents, Joe and Gladys Romedahl; her sister, Josephine Said; and her husband, Dr. Otto Steele. She is survived by her children, their spouses, and their children: Marty Steele Knepper, of Sioux City, and her husband, John Knepper; John Steele, of Omaha, Nebraska, his wife, Deb Steele, and their children, Laura and Sarah; and Timothy Steele, of Milton, Massachusetts, his wife, Elizabeth Menne, and their children, Katherine and Andrew. Mildred also leaves behind her niece, Patricia Said Cockerham, and her husband, Keith Cockerham, and her nephew, Ramsey Said, and his wife, Jane Uramoto, all of Novato, California.