Robert S. Steelman

Date of Birth

June 5th, 1927

Date of Death

December 6th, 2014

Memorial Meeting

Orange County Friends Meeting


Ronald S. Steelman was born on June 5, 1927, to Margaret (Thompson) and Joseph Champion Steelman. The family lived in Hollywood and Ron grew up in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. He graduated from Hollywood High – the band he played in during high school played at Shirley Temple’s prom! Ron was also a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the Curtis Institute of Music, and Harvard Law School. He met his wife of 64 years, Lee (Trobaugh) Steelman, at the Curtis Institute and served in the U. S. Navy in World War II.

Ron and Lee’s involvement with Quakers began in the 1950s when they moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. They had been exploring various faiths while in Philadelphia, but had not succeeded in getting to a Friends Meeting. The search continued when they moved to Cambridge, when a chance encounter with a high school friend of Lee’s, himself a Congregational minister, led him to recommend that they try Quakers. They found Cambridge Friends Meeting and joined in 1957.

Ron was intelligent, honorable, and known for his ability to persevere. He was a musician, attorney, humanitarian, family man, fabulous cook, witty writer and a wizard of word play. In his later years he was often seen with a crossword puzzle or cryptogram in hand. He played double bass with the Cleveland Symphony before returning to school for his law degree. While attending Harvard Law School, Ron and his wife Lee helped establish the Boston Chamber Players. From Boston, the Steelmans brought their young family to Orange County, California, where they settled in San Clemente. For many years, Ron was a Commissioner of the South Orange County Municipal Court.

With Lee, Ron was a founding member of Orange County Friends Meeting and wore many hats during his 50 years of membership, serving at various times as Clerk, as a member of (and often Clerk) of the Ministry and Oversight, Finance, Religious Education, Nominating, and Hospitality Committees, and also at various times as Treasurer, Recording Clerk, and Newsletter Editor – where he established the uniquely spelled newsletter name still in use today: The Quaker Qourier. Meeting also knew him as an accordionist and tap dancer, a humorist, a songwriter, and, with Lee, as the host of Meeting Christmas Parties for many years.

Ron died peacefully at home on December 6, 2014, after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Lee Steelman; children, Joseph Steelman, Marlee Steelman-Mitchell and Kory Steelman; grandchildren, Andrew Steelman, Kristina Steelman, West Mitchell, Hannah Mitchell; son-in-law Mark Mitchell; daughter-in-law, Melody Guiver Steelman; and granddaughter-in-law to be, Maria Becerra.

A well-attended Memorial Meeting for Worship was held on December 20, 2014 in San Clemente, California.