LEWISTON – Retired Navy Commander Francis “Frank” Steele, 90, died Feb. 22, 2021 at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Born in Mexico, Maine in 1930, he attended St. Athanasius school in Rumford and St Thomas High School in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada, graduating in 1947.
After employment at Diamond Match Co. in Peru, Maine, he was at the University of Maine, Brunswick Annex for the school year 1948-49. He then attended Stephens High School for one year while awaiting an appointment to the Naval Academy. He was appointed to the Academy in 1950 by the late Senator Margaret Chase Smith and was at Annapolis until graduating with the class of 1954 and commissioned Ensign, USN.
The early years of his Navy career were spent in the Pacific in Hawaii and aboard Destroyers, Cruisers and Aircraft Carriers in the Far East.
He had a tour of duty at the Naval Reserve headquarters in Omaha, Neb., inspecting Naval Reserve facilities all over the country. This assignment was curtailed and he was ordered as a Fleet Liaison Officer in Saigon and with the Marines at Danang. There, he flew regularly to aircraft carriers operating against North Vietnam from Tonkin Gulf. He was a victim of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and was, for a time after retirement, classified as disabled due to prostate cancer.
Assigned after Vietnam duty to the University of Wisconsin, he was awared the Master of Arts degree in Mass Communications. Next, after another tour in the Pentagon, he began a five-year stay in Europe and later at the US Navy European Head-quarters in London.
His last assignment was at Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he retired from the Navy in 1975.
In retirement he traveled widely; first in Bavaria, the Rhineland and Berlin as a German language student at the Goethe Institute, later pursuing the language at the University of Connecticut.
Pursuing another lifelong dream, he rode the Trans-Siberian train from Vladivostok to Moscow and Leningrad. His travel articles from the Soviet Union, Scandinavia, the Far East, South Pacific and Africa were well received.
In the late 1980’s he hooked up with his dynamic, white haired cousin, Warren Steele, formerly of Rumford, from the Steele’s eagles nest at Hall Hill. Warren had spent World War Two, and his subsequent life in Guatemala, where he was an electrical supplier and contractor. He had helped electrify parts of rural Guatemala and Honduras. Frank was to spend considerable time with extended family in Honduras and was much taken by the Latin culture.
He was a man of many loves and enthusiasms; notable hiking and skiing in Europe and New Hampshire, spending time in Washington and New York, traveling through the Shenandoah National Forest, Maryland, Virginia, Chesapeake Bay; beaches at Ocean City, Rehoboth, Virginia Beach, Carolina Beach and Cape Hatteras.
He was especially fond of his cousin and kindred spirit Mary (Steele) Sealander. Married into the Army, she liked to harass Frank in the (infrequent) occasions when Army beat Navy.
He was a Boy Scout in Troop 186 and was proud of having served as Acting Scoutmaster in Spring of 1950. He was not the easiest drillmaster in that role. He thought that the scouts would have been amused to see him, a few short weeks later, being harried and drilled in the hot Maryland sun at Annapolis.
During the summer of 1950 he had a number of run-ins with the authorities at the Academy. Punishment for infractions was a one-hour run along the seawall at 5 a.m. each morning. But among the best memories of his life were those runs, with the sun coming up over the Chesapeake and the smell of salt water.
There was never enough time to fit everything in but he did manage to make major contributions to the construction of five small churches in South America, a seminary in Ukraine and to St. Faustina church in Jackman, Maine, where a plaque is dedicated to his sister Betty (Steele) Yeagar.
In 1999 his mother at age 103 moved to d’Youville nursing home in Lewiston, where he began a long career as a volunteer. In 2013 he moved to the adjacent Marcotte Home, to continue what he regarded as his most worthwhile work.
Finally, it can now safely be revealed he was a Yankee fan in a Red Sox family, town and state. But late in life he did repent and all ended well.
He was a member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, the U.S. Naval Institute, the Navy League of United States, the Retired Officers Association and the American Legion.
He was predeceased by father, Frederick and mother Mary Alice (Goodwin) Steele; sister Elizabeth (Steele) Yeager and husband Arthur Yeager; and brother in-law Lee Goodwin.
He is survived by a sister Claire (Steele) Goodwin of Keizer, Ore. and a brother Ernest Steele and wife Teresa of Brewer, Maine; along with several nieces and nephews.
Friends and family are invited to sign the online guest book and share memories with the family at http://www.meaderandson.com
A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated in the spring. Arrangements are under the direction of the Meader & Son Funeral home 3 Franklin St Rumford, Maine.