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ROBERT EUGENE STEICHEN

Thursday, March 11, 2021
ROBERT EUGENE STEICHEN

Robert Eugene Steichen died peacefully surrounded by loving family March 3rd. He was 94 years young - and lived a life filled with farming, music, an infectiously positive outlook on the world, and a profound belief in the absolute goodness of every individual. His kindness touched every person he met.

Bob was born at Sunny Slope Farm, eight miles north of Perry, on November 21st, 1926. The third child of John and Maude (Schiltz) Steichen, he walked to Sunny Slope school for his first eight years. He graduated from Perry High School in 1944, where he played trombone in the Band. Bob served as Band President his senior year, and took over conducting responsibilities when the band director left for duty in the army. He was a member of National Honor Society. As a 4-H Club member, he showed sheep and pigs, and boarded his first train to attend the National 4-H Congress in Chicago. He and his sister Mary Lou were popular entertainers at local events. The family were members of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where he sang in the choir.

Following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, Bob attended Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) for one semester. With the world still engaged in WWII, he left school and served two years as a Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps - the precursor to today’s U.S. Air Force. His duties included typing honorary discharges at Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base outside of San Francisco, with frequent trips into the city to experience the opera and symphony. He returned to A&M to complete his Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1950, playing in the trombone section of the A&M Band. He spent weekends at the family farm in Perry, milking the cows, and hitchhiking back to Stillwater for school. He accepted his first teaching position in Minco, Oklahoma, where he taught band and vocal music for three years.

When asked once about his greatest life accomplishment, Bob answered “convincing Margaret to marry me.” He and Margaret Beadle met at a 4-H party at Sunny Slope Farm and dated long distance while he was in Minco. They were married at St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral in Oklahoma City on a hot August morning in 1952. Their honeymoon was a road trip to Taos, New Mexico, staying at cabins along the Rio Grande Valley - sleeping in twin beds.

Bob taught band and vocal music for five years in Waynoka, then moved to Tonkawa High School, where he spent 11 years as band director and driver’s education instructor, later adding guidance counselor to his job responsibilities. He completed his Master of Science degree in Secondary Administration from OSU in 1954 and his Education Specialist Degree in Counseling and Guidance from Arizona State University in 1967. Margaret would pack the entire family into a station wagon each summer as Bob worked on his advanced degree in Arizona. Bob became the Director of Counseling and instructor in music and psychology at Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) in Tonkawa from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. While at NOC, he served as advisor to the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Bob was State President of the Oklahoma Career Development Association, Past President of the OEA - Northern District and was recognized by fellow colleagues as Oklahoma “Counselor of the Year”. He was a lifelong member of Oklahoma Music Educators Association and Oklahoma Retired Teachers Association.

He served as President of the Tonkawa Chamber of Commerce and the Tonkawa Lions Club. He is a Past Commander of the Tonkawa American Legion, and served on the Tonkawa City Council for eight years. He served as treasurer of the Blackwell-Tonkawa Airport Board for 25 years. He was a Committee Chairman of the Boy Scouts of America for 10 years, and made a backpacking trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with son Kevin. He worked on establishing a senior citizen center and a recycling program in Tonkawa. Bob was active in the Kay County Democratic Party, volunteering at the Democratic booth at the Kay County Free Fair in Blackwell. He was chosen as a Very Important Member of the Oklahoma Retired Teachers Association. The Tonkawa Chamber of Commerce awarded him a Lifetime Service Award and, along with wife Margaret, the Tonkawa Pride Award. They served as “Mr and Mrs Claus” for the Tonkawa Christmas Parade and as Grand Marshalls for the Tonkawa Mardi Gras festivities.

Bob lived his Catholic faith, serving on the Parish Council at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Tonkawa, teaching Sunday school, and conducting the Christmas choir, attending daily Mass and Breakfast Club at Mary’s. He and Margaret were Eucharistic Ministers, and he acted as the faculty advisor for Catholic students at NOC.

He never stopped teaching: after retiring from NOC he headed the Tonkawa Leadership Program for more than 18 years, and taught “Character Counts” to 8th grade students at Tonkawa Mid-Hi. He was a founding member of the North Central OK Arts Council.

Bob was never happier than when he was wearing overalls (winning the Farmer’s Tan Contest at Tonkawa’s July 4th Celebration), driving the tractor or combine, and sharing his love of farming with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He instilled in all a respect for the land, a love of growing things, his patience, and his quiet and deep faith.

Bob was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years Margaret, two brothers (John and Joe), and his sister Mary Louise. He leaves behind a legacy of love: Jeanne (Steve) Friesen of Enid; Kevin (Erin) Steichen of Tulsa; Suzanne (Matt) McQuade of Yukon; Brenda (Don) Dobbs of Tulsa; Jerry of New York City; Barry (Christine) Steichen of Tulsa; 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, so far.

He lived a life of exemplary kindness, belief in the innate goodness of every person, and a genuine smile which will never be forgotten or dimmed. His greatest wish: “Harmony and understanding among people, and accepting individual differences.” We love him so very much.

A public come and go Celebration of Life will be scheduled at a later date.

Arrangements are under the direction of Trout Funeral Home & Crematory, 505 W. Grand Ave., Ponca City, OK 74601.

Memorial donations may be made in Bob’s honor to: Northern Oklahoma College Foundation

Steichen Family Music Scholarship

1220 East Grand Ave

Tonkawa, OK 74653 or St. Joseph Building Fund

St. Joseph Catholic Church P.O. Box 525

P.O. Box 525

Tonkawa, OK 74653

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