South Mountain Friends Meeting
Candace Dornblaser Steele, aged 80, passed away peacefully in her sleep on a night in September 2011, in Boise, Idaho, from complications of Alzheimer's Disease.
Candace Steele was born Candace Hester Dornblaser in August 1931 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In childhood, she became a lifelong lover of animals, especially horses and dogs. Her most unusual pet was a “de-scented” skunk.
Candace received a B.A. in biology with minors in history and international relations from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. As part of her studies, she traveled to Israel and lived on a kibbutz for four months. She was discouraged from pursuing her first choice of becoming a veterinarian because it was not considered a woman’s profession; instead she went into nursing, studying at the University of Denver, Stanford University, and the University of California, San Francisco. One of her early nursing experiences was with the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky, where she traveled on horseback to serve families in remote roadless areas.
A lover of wilderness, Candace met Charles “Chuck” Steele, an electrical engineer, on a Sierra Club backpacking trip in 1956. They were married in 1957 and settled in Palo Alto, California. With Chuck, Candace began attending Palo Alto Meeting, attracted by Friends' beliefs in pacifism, individuals’ basic goodness, and the ability to experience the Divine directly without going through a clerical intermediary. Later, they attended Twin Cities Friends Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota and, after Chuck retired, South Mountain Friends Meeting (then called Rogue Valley Meeting) in Ashland, Oregon, where both became members. At South Mountain Meeting, Candace served on several committees, including Peace and Social Concerns, Hospitality, and Ministry and Oversight, and acted as the meeting's contact person for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Following Chuck's death in an automobile accident in 1998, she relocated to Olympia, Washington and in 2006, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, to Boise, Idaho, transferring her membership each time.
While raising three young daughters, Candace had worked as a labor and delivery room nurse. As hospitals adopted ever more invasive techniques in the birth process, she became an advocate of natural childbirth and a teacher of the Lamaze birthing method. Once her daughters were teenagers, she took a masters’ degree in marriage, family and child counseling and, while semi-retired in Ashland, counseled people struggling with alcohol, substance, and sexual abuse.
After one daughter came out as a lesbian in 1980, Candace and Chuck became passionate advocates for gay rights. Candace was particularly proud of the fact that the Peninsula Chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) was founded in their Palo Alto living room. While in Ashland, she was named PFLAG's Pacific Northwest Regional Director. In this capacity, she helped organize local chapters, counseled parents, networked with religious leaders, and spoke before legislatures to fight anti-gay prejudice, policies and legislation. She and Chuck regularly opened their home to gay and lesbian youth who had been rejected by their families. One wrote in thanks: "Candace put her arms around me and let me cry; Chuck fixed breakfast for me and let me talk. In those moments I had parents again."
From her professional and volunteer pursuits to her love of animals, Candace consistently found ways to care for others with compassion and dedication. She was a wise and loving presence in Meetings for Worship, and her counsel was welcomed both informally and on committees of clearness, which she was often asked to join. She is survived by her brother Bright “Dorn” Dornblaser, daughters Danae, Heidi and Heather Steele, nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.