Steelman–Lee Margaret Steelman, 91, on June 10, 2017, at home in San Clemente, Calif. Lee was born on November 10, 1925, in West Frankfort, Ill., to loving and musical parents Lee Margaret and Frank E. Trobaugh. She became an accomplished flutist, and after graduating from high school earned a bachelor’s from Curtis Institute of Music and a master’s in musicology from the University of Pennsylvania. At Curtis she met Ronald Steelman, a double bass player from California, and they married in 1950. Lee and Ron moved to Cambridge, Mass., so he could attend law school, and she continued to teach and perform. In Cambridge they first found Quakers and joined Cambridge Meeting. In 1963 they moved to San Clemente and were one of the founding families of Orange County Meeting in Irvine, Calif., when it became an independent meeting in 1970. Lee took part in Quaker activities at all levels in California, serving as clerk and on most committees. Members and attenders of Orange County Meeting remember her especially for her interest in and willingness to work with the meeting’s children. She was also a loving and wise source of advice for younger Friends trying to raise their families in a Quaker environment. Lee and Ron hosted the meeting’s annual Christmas party for years—a gathering that always included a Posada, carols, and Ron’s accordion accompaniment, and that for several years featured a children’s orchestra that Lee coached. She was one of the last surviving founding members of Orange County Meeting, and Friends celebrate her legacy of love and service to Quaker organizations and the San Clemente community.
Active in Southern California Quarterly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), she served on the national Board of Governors of AFSC in 1983–1985, FCNL General Committee in 1990–2006, and the FCNL Development Committee in 1995–2001. An FCNL staffer remembers Lee as gracious, smart, and dedicated, always going beyond her assignments.
She was also a leading civic activist in San Clemente. In 1965, she co-founded the Serra Preschool, a cooperative school that still exists. She helped to establish many community service agencies. She served on the South Orange County Area Regional Mental Health Advisory Board and founded South Orange County Community Services (SOCCS) Council, a nonprofit agency that coordinates community services. Under her guidance SOCCS successfully launched the Mary Erickson Foundation (dedicated to providing low-income housing), Laura’s House (a domestic violence shelter), low-income medical and dental services, and a social services referral network. She is named on the San Clemente Wall of Recognition.
Lee’s husband, Ronald Steelman, died in 2014. She leaves her children, Joe Steelman (Melody), Marlee Mitchell (Mark), and Kory Steelman (Abby Bogomolny); her sister, Joan Snider; four grandchildren; a great-grandson; and four nieces and nephews.