Monona – Elden Louis Steele, age 78, passed away peacefully on Wednesday July 29, 2020 at the UW Hospital in Madison. Elden was born April 16, 1942. He was raised by his adoptive parents Elden and Arvella Steele in Davenport, IA. Elden worked for Dane County for many years, retiring from working in Security at the City-County building in Madison in 2005.
Though he was not born to great wealth, status, or privilege, he was a deeply spiritual man, whose Christian faith helped him lead a purpose driven life. His good counsel and generosity of spirit left an indelible mark on those he loved and those who loved him.
Through the traumas he witnessed and withstood, poverty, Vietnam war, and vicious racism, he always aimed to make the world a little better for his kin, friends, and the downtrodden. He took immense pride in his children and taught them to judge strangers by the content of their character, and to do the best they could with what they had.
He would be absolutely annoyed not being here to hug his great-grandchildren. However, now that he has found out what the mystery is all about, and all his questions truthfully resolved, his kin know in their bereaved spirits he is resting in peace, he is resting in power.
With indescribable grief and pain, but also at times laughter through tears, his family remains honored having benefited from his prudence, pragmatism, friendship, and unconditional love.
He loved to read, fish, hunt, explore Wisconsin’s parks, and spending as much time as possible with family.
Elden is survived by his son Eric Nosa, daughter Shalise Steele-Young, daughter Kerry Jones (Brad Prado), son Elden Steele III (Jeff Bauer), daughter Arvella Hanson (Ryan Hanson), daughter Tamika Bostic, ten grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
He is preceded in death by his parents and first-born Crystal Lynette Steele.
A public visitation observing social distancing will be held from 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM on Wednesday August 5, 2020 at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3325 E. Washington Ave. Madison. A private service and burial will take place.
*EULOGY FOR ELDEN LOUIS STEELE*
Not knowing who his people were, or where they came from, was a familiar discussion topic to his children and a poisonous wound that never healed his entire life. Not knowing the truth of his origin was like an earthquake fossilized in the distant past but whose profound effects derailed and wreaked havoc on his entire life.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1942, Elden Louis Steele Jr., the man whose humble life we are gathered here today to honor, memorialize, and celebrate, had an extraordinary arc though tough, impoverished, and sad origin.
At a time when children in public orphanages were considered lower-class citizens subjected to flawed thought processes of the bigoted people in charge of their care, he was admitted, at four months old, to the Iowa Soldier’s Orphans Home in Davenport, Iowa.
However, six days before his first birthday, Elden Jr. was adopted into the home of Elden Sr. and Arvella Steele in Davenport, Iowa. Though he was lucky enough to not be under the supervision of people with casually prejudiced attitudes toward children deemed illegitimate or unworthy of graciousness, the home the Steeles reared him in provided meager succor.
He was heartbroken at 9 when his parents told him he would no longer be getting Christmas presents, and by 12, a few years after the death of his father, his mother told him: “You’re going to have to start buying your own clothes, because I’m tired of you getting into fights and coming home bloody.”
Seven years later, after being well acquainted with police brutality and the daily and cultural cruelties of a society enraptured with violent racism, he set about building a family and home. He was tall, intensely private, muscular, not easily trusting, but very good-looking and charismatic with a head full of good hair. No longer suffering in his childhood home, he worked at an iron foundry and set out to be a decent, newlywed husband and young father blessed by the birth of his firstborn daughter: Crystal Lynette Steele.
To the best of his abilities, he provided for his new family, obtained a degree from Kirkwood Community College, and served with distinction in an Army Special Forces unit in Vietnam. Always, it seemed, attempting to outrun the tsunami of appalling traumas he witnessed and withstood from childhood to young adulthood, he did his best to survive and provide.
By 1969 he was 27, divorced, world-weary, and searching for love. He returned briefly to Davenport. Though unaware of it by the time he left, his first son Eric Nosa was born. Less than a year later, he welcomed the births of his next two daughters, Kerry Jones and Shalise Steele.
As he matured, his consciousness was getting the better of him, and around his early 30s he reconnected with his Christian faith and started making decisions based on serving a higher power. Over the course of the next seven years, while working as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor in Kansas City, Missouri, he welcomed the births of his last three children: son Elden III, daughter Arvella, and in 1981 when he was 39, daughter Tamika Bostic.
His origin story haunted him, especially during holidays. Through tireless research, in 1994 when he was 52, he discovered he had been born Cecil Robinson. Many years later in 2015, through DNA and genetic testing, he learned that the adoption information he had found years earlier was incomplete and not entirely accurate. Nevertheless, he continued to persevere with a new perspective on who he was and could be.
Though he was extraordinarily complicated and sometimes cantankerous, he was a fearlessly selfless and loving individual. Even decades after initially meeting him, friends and acquaintances have recalled his jovial nature, verve, modesty, sharp intellect, and playful wit.
His self-abnegating nature made him keep quiet concerning his own personal challenges like recovering from his heart surgeries, to successes like a letter of commendation he received in 2000 for service excellence. He had assisted a recently evicted family by finding them a home and resources, going above and beyond his own duties in his role for Dane County. A year after retiring from working in security at the City-County building in Madison, he was baptized at 64 by Pastor Alex Gee, to further reaffirm his Christian faith and his desire to serve God more nearly.
Although the last sixteen years of his life were far better than the first sixteen, his optimism, love, faith, and hope never failed him. He did everything he could to be a part of his children’s lives. Though he was slow to forgive himself for what he regarded as the copious mistakes and choices he made with them and their mothers, his children were his most prized possessions. Their gains were his gains, their successes his success, no matter how small.
Whatever iceberg of resentments, juvenile judgments, complaints that had formed over the course of their lives from maturation into young adulthood, all evaporated into mist as his children reconnected with him in adulthood, and their paths irrevocably changed for the better.
Though grieving is a process and it will take years for us to recover from our irreplaceable loss, we rejoice and celebrate the life of a remarkably kind and generous man and the all too brief time we spent with him.
May he rest in peace, may he rest in power.
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3325 E. Washington Ave.
Madison (608) 249-6666
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