Patricia Ann Steel, the beloved wife of Robert (“Bill”) Steel, died peacefully at home in Portsmouth, RI, on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at the age of 93 ½, while under Hospice care. She was born on June 12, 1930, as the third of five siblings to the late Arthur Burke and the late Margaret (Owen) Burke.
She was pre-deceased by two brothers, Jack, and Billy, and her first husband Joseph H. W. Hooker Sr. She is survived by older sister “Dot” (Dorothy Burke) Allard of Plymouth, MA. and younger brother Paul Burke of Pembroke, MA.
She is also survived by her loving husband “Bill” (Robert T. Steel), two sons Joseph (“Buzz”) H. W. Hooker Jr. of Marlborough, MA. and Daniel W. Steel of Burbank, CA., and daughter Karla L. (Steel) Neiffer of Three Forks, MT.; in addition to 8 Grandchildren and 6 Great – Grandchildren.
Pat was always very much a self-starter, and due to her innate determination and persistence she learned to read grown-up books under the bed clothes, by flashlight, when she was only four! Her passion for both children and for education propelled her into teaching Kindergarten at St. Michael’s Country Day School in Newport until 1965. Thereafter, she taught English and Physical Education at The Newport School for Girls, and later at Miramar, until 1969 when she married Bill on June 14 — “Flag Day”!
After moving to Needham, MA., later that year, she taught tennis at Walnut Hill School in Natick, MA. and later at Newton North High School, where her team won the Massachusetts Girls’ Tennis Championship. During this same era, she often refereed girls’ High School Field Hockey matches across southeastern Mass.
For 23 years, prior to moving back to Newport in 2004, Pat was a Real Estate Broker for various companies in Needham, covering a wide range of towns from Concord to Braintree. Due to her quick perception of the realistic desires and financial capabilities of her clients, she became top agent for a while in a couple of these companies by securing client loyalty – She actually closed on four properties for one client when their work requirements forced them to leave the area, and subsequently return to a different west Boston suburb!
Part of Pat’s desire for adventure included a love of traveling. Her first night ever in Europe, in September, 1968, was spent sailing across the English Channel from Southampton to Cherbourg (prior to her engagement to Bill). The continuing interest in sailing and related activities found her at Castle Hill, in the early hours of dawn, on several occasions, as part of the Race Committee recording the finishing times of participants in the Annapolis to Newport Race. This dedication to “duty” lead to an invitation from Dr. Robin Wallace (PRO) for her to become the first woman ever on the Louis Vuitton Race Committee selecting the foreign Challenger for the America’s Cup Races in both 1980 and 1983 – That year she was on the Signal Boat for 115 of the 159 races that finally selected “Australia II”, from a field of seven 12 Metres, to be the Challenger that eventually beat “Liberty” to lift the Cup from the USA for the first time in 132 years.
A fortunate spin-off from that Race Committee was an invitation from The Spouting Rock Beach Association for Seasonal Membership, later converted to Full Membership. This was ideal for Karla (12) and Dan (11) to join the Sports Group, plus allowing Pat to play Tennis from dawn to dusk. Unfortunately, a broken right wrist in 2006 forced her to play only doubles until a severe accident to the right knee prompted a reluctant “early retirement” in 2017 (then aged 87). Thereafter, her devotion to tennis was limited to exercising her intuitive coaching skills (from the distant safety of our TV set) on the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during the Major Tennis Championships! To keep her mind active, she then spent more time playing bridge, which she had greatly enjoyed all her adult life, and became a devoted crossword fan.
That injury made sailing our 22-foot Ensign incredibly difficult for her, so regretfully she restricted her sailing horizons to shoreside activities and support at The Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Newport Yacht Club and Sail Newport.
Pat can best be described as a very loving, spirited, and active lady, with a quick wit, and swift incisive decisions, perhaps quick to anger, but always very quick to forgive and forget! She will be long remembered at St Columba’s Chapel, where in addition to being on the Vestry, she used to manage the “Live Auction” in November for about a decade and organize the “Silent Auction” at the Church Garden Party in June during the same era. In retrospect, she has left many vivid memories of happy times and experiences with her family and a wide circle of friends.
A Memorial Service will be held for Pat at St. Columba’s The Berkeley Memorial Chapel, 55 Vaucluse Avenue, Middletown, on Saturday, January 20, 2024, at 10:00 AM.
In lieu of flowers donations in Pat’s name may be made to Sail Newport, 72 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, RI 02840, or to Visiting Nurse Home and Hospice, 1184 East Main Road, Portsmouth, RI 02871.
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