Lee Margaret Steelman

Date of Birth

November 10th, 1925

Date of Death

June 10th, 2017

Memorial Meeting

Orange County Friends Meeting


Lee Margaret Steelman, on June 10, 2017, at her home in San Clemente, California, age 91, after a life of inspiring service to Quaker organizations and numerous community services in San Clemente, California.

Lee was born November 10, 1925, in West Frankfort, Illinois, to loving and musical parents Lee Margaret and Frank E. Trobaugh. She became an accomplished flutist, and after graduating from high school, attended Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she received her BA, and the University of Pennsylvania for her MA in Musicology. At Curtis she met Ronald Steelman, a double bass player from California, and they were married in 1950, a marriage that lasted 64 years, until Ron’s death in 2014. Lee and Ron moved to Cambridge, Mass, so Ron could attend law school, and Lee continued to teach and perform. Their three children, Joe, Marlee and Kory were born in Cambridge. In Cambridge Lee and Ron first found Quakers, and became active members of Cambridge Monthly Meeting. In 1963 the Steelmans moved to San Clemente in southern California, where they were one of the founding families of Orange County Friends meeting when it became an independent meeting in 1970. Lee and her family were involved in Quaker activities in California at all levels, serving Orange County Meeting as clerk and on most of its committees. Members and attenders of Orange County Meeting remember Lee especially for her interest in children in the meeting. She was always ready to work with children, and a loving and wise source of advice for younger friends trying to raise their families in a Quaker environment. Lee and Ron hosted the annual Christmas party for the meeting for years – a gathering that always included a Posada, carols, Ron’s accordion accompaniment, and, for several years, a children’s orchestra coached by Lee.

She was also active in Southern California Quarterly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting and in the American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation. Lee served on the national Board of Governors of the American Service Committee 1983-5 and FCNL General Committee, 1990-2006 and the Development Committee 1995-2001. An FCNL staffer remembers Lee as a ‘class act’ – gracious, smart and dedicated, always going beyond her assignments.

Lee was also a leading civic activist in her community of San Clemente. In 1965, she co-founded the Serra Pre-school, a cooperative school that still exists, and in subsequent years was a driving force in establishing many community service agencies. She served on the South Orange County Area Regional Mental Health Advisory Board and founded South Orange County Community Services Council, a non-profit agency that coordinated community services. Under Lee's guidance SOCCS successfully launched the Mary Erickson Foundation (low-income housing,) Laura's House (battered women's shelter,) low-income medical and dental services, and a social services referral network. The San Clemente Wall of Recognition includes her name.

Lee leaves a loving family: her sister Joan, children Joe (Melody), Marlee (Mark), Kory (Abby), grandchildren Kristina, West, Hannah, Andrew (Maria), great-grandson Greyson, and nieces and nephew Sarah, Amy, LeeAnn and Ted. Lee was one of the last surviving founding members of Orange County Monthly Meeting, and we celebrate her legacy of love and service.