Margaret H. Steele Sunday, May 28, 1922 - Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Margaret Hornbeck Steele, 95, died peacefully at home in Walnut Creek, CA, on August 2, 2017. She outlived three husbands: John Steere, Sr. (1919-1957), Stanley Jaros (1919-1995) and Allen Steele (1923-2012). Margaret, a beautiful woman within and without, will long be remembered for her myriad virtues, among them her graciousness and generosity of spirit, devotion to family and friends, kindness to all, sense of adventure and open mindedness, unfailingly positive outlook, and an unusual adaptiveness and determination to remake her life in the wake of tragedy or setbacks. Born in Detroit, Michigan on May 28, 1922, Margaret was the second of two children born to Helen and Hulet Hornbeck, Sr. She spent her first five years in Michigan. Margaret, her beloved mother and adored older brother Hulet, Jr., spent the summer of 1928 at the New Jersey shore and visiting her extended family. At summer’s end, Hulet, Sr. informed his family that they were not to return to Michigan but to remain in New Jersey. Margaret and Hulet were raised by their working, single mother during the Great Depression, which left a deep imprint on her. The family moved to Bloomfield, New Jersey, where Margaret graduated from high school in 1940. Helen would often take Hulet Jr. and Margaret to the Green Mountain Club’s Camp Thendara, a rustic lodge overlooking Lake Tiorati in Harriman State Park in New York. It was here that Margaret developed a life-long love of nature. Margaret wasted no time embarking on one of her first great adventures at age 18: heading to California to attend Pasadena City College. During her first year in Southern California, she met an instantly smitten John Steere. Margaret and John were married in December 1941 in Los Angeles, John’s hometown. Margaret became the devoted mother of two daughters, Diana and Lori, and a son, John, Jr. They had a very happy marriage ended by John Sr.’s tragic death in 1957. During a family trip to New Jersey to spend the summer of 1958 with her mother, a friend of Helen’s arranged for Margaret to meet Stanley Jaros, whose wife had also been killed in a car accident. Stanley had three children, Bill, Ned and Elaine. She married Stanley in 1959 and moved back to New Jersey. Margaret was proud of being a full-time mother to a blended family to which she committed herself in sustaining its love and unity. Stanley retired from Exxon in 1978, and they moved their household to Lafayette, California in 1979. They had a good life together in retirement, often traveling, until Stanley died of cancer in 1995. After Stanley’s death, Margaret embarked on a six-month cruise in 1996. There she met a new dancing partner and gentleman, Allen Steele. Love blossomed and Allen moved from Illinois to live with Margaret in her Lafayette home. Margaret’s third marriage was to Allen Steele. They shared a good life together and traveled widely—including taking their entire family on three cruises—until Parkinson’s undermined Allen’s health. Ever practical, Margaret realized that it was time to shed the responsibilities of being a homeowner, and they moved to Byron Park in 2009, an apartment retirement community, where they lived out the remainder of their respective lives. During her early years at Byron Park, Margaret penned a touching memoir titled, “Four Lifetimes in One” about her life. Margaret’s favorite saying, “I’m happiest when I’m happy!” reflected her personal philosophy that happiness was a choice and not accidental. She was a lover of life. For this reason, she cultivated a practice of acquiring many friends and engaging in favored activities: hiking and camping, concerts, lectures, reading, painting landscapes, playing bridge, creating photo scrap books, and traveling, including five trips around the world. However, her greatest passion was always reserved for her involvement with her children, grand- and great-grandchildren. Their presence would always give her joy and bring out her greatest glow. In addition to being the matriarch of her family, Margaret was an astute investor and philanthropist who gave generously to her favorite educational, cultural and environmental causes throughout her life. Additionally, she was the president of the board of directors of the Plainfield YWCA in New Jersey in the early 1970’s and was responsible for fund-raising efforts which turned the organization around and allowed it to thrive. Margaret is survived by five children: Diana Wiley, Lori Steere (Rebecca Smith), John Steere (Michelle), Bill Jaros and Elaine Seawell (Ned). Her sixth child, Ned Jaros, passed away in 2016. She is also survived by her beloved grandchildren Heather Stickney, Nicole Burrows, Kate Garlinge, John Wiley, Allegra and Rachel Jaros, as well as great-grandsons Cullen and Stuart Garlinge. She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed. Friends are invited to a Celebration of Life on Sunday, August 13 at 4:00 p.m. at the Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church, 49 Knox Drive in Lafayette. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, gifts in Margaret’s memory would be appreciated to the East Bay Regional Parks Foundation, to the Idyllwild Arts Foundation, to Save Mt. Diablo, or to the charity of your choice.