Dr. James H. Steele Jr, 82 , Broomfield CO, died early Saturday morning, April 6th, 2019, from injuries sustained as a pedestrian in a multiple vehicle hit and run accident in the Lower Downtown districts of Denver CO on April 5th.

Dr. Steele was born in Richmond VA, in February 1937 to James H. and Ann Steele who preceded him in death He graduated from Highland Springs High School, Highland VA, in 1955 and grew up in Sandston VA. Received his BS degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute(VPI), Blacksburg VA, in 1959. He was an active VPI college baseball team player at third base with his teammates bestowing the nickname “Turtle”.

During college he served in the Army ROTC. He married Mary Roberta in 1958, followed by the birth of their first child, daughter Dr. Leslie S. Steele (Dayton OH) that same year. He served as 1st Lt in the Army from 1959 to 1962. At this time he was stationed in Baumholder West Germany in the 7th Howitzer Battalion, 16th Artillery of the 8th Infantry Division. Birth of the two sons occurred during this deployment in Germany, Craig B. Steele (Monroe OH) in 1960 and Ross B. Steele (Platte City MO) in 1962. He also participated in the 8th Infantry Division baseball team, continuing he lifeline admiration of baseball.

Jim returned to VPI in the fall of 1962 to pursue graduate degrees in Metallurgical Engineering. Jim and Roberta started playing bridge during this time in Blacksburg VA community. Around 1964 he transferred to University of Florida where he received his Ph.D. in Material Science in 1967. After graduation he went to work at Western Electric in New Jersey as a Research Scientist. In November of 1968, his youngest daughter, Maryann W. Meyer (Monroe OH) was born in New Jersey. Around 1969 he accepted a teaching position at VPI & state university in the College of Metallurgical Engineering, in Blacksburg VA. He continued bridge playing in Blacksburg with his wife Roberta, and often used his two elder children as practice partners. He also worked summers at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton VA. In Blacksburg, he refereed high school and VPI&SU scrimmage football games.

He was active in baseball sandlot leagues coaching his two sons. In 1975, Jim starting working for Armco Research Center, Middletown OH, as a Research Scientist in stainless steel metallurgy. He was very active in the Monroe Sandlot Association; not only as a baseball coach, but also as an Umpire and Monroe Sandlot commissioner. During this time he also coached his youngest daughter, Maryann, in Girls soccer and softball.

Around 1977, he started running in marathons and participated in many running groups. Jim organized the first Monroe OH Marathon and qualified and ran in the Boston marathon. During this time Jim was an active bowler and participated in various bowling leagues. He was extremely involved in the Metallurgical engineering community in the Dayton OH region of American Society of Metals/Materials (ASM, later ASM International) trade organization, serving as Chapter president and spoke at various local chapters throughout Ohio. He lectured on the topics of metallurgy at various Dayton and Cincinnati universities and through Armco Steel sponsored research at both Wright State University and University of Cincinnati.

Jim, along with his two sons, actively supported the local Monroe boy scouts and Camp Kern in Middletown OH. In 1986, Jim worked at Los Alamos National laboratories in Los Alamos NM, as a research scientist in plutonium metallurgy. Jim married Gretchan Mills in 1987 in Santa Fe NM. He participated in ultra-marathons and enjoyed running with is wolf-malamute dog, named Chardonnay. Around 1988 his serious bridge career took off, playing locally with John Pendergrast. Jim was an adjunct professor at the Univ. of New Mexico teaching electron microscopy. Summers he would spend hiking, water-rafting, camping, and exploring various natural wonders with his children in NM, CO and throughout the Southwest. He retired from Los Alamos and moved to Denver CO, where he spent time playing in bridge tournaments and running in marathons. His companion at the time, Karen Renne, would travel playing in bridge tournaments as partners throughout the US. Jim was a frequent materials science/electron microscopy lecturer at various Colorado Universities and also ASM Int chapter meetings throughout the state of Colorado.

Jim (the Man of) Steele was an outstanding character in the Boulder bridge community. In 2002 he taught his first bridge class at Mike’s. He enjoyed teaching so much that when he moved to the mountains in Boulder shortly afterwards, he asked the Boulder Unit for support to start a class and I/N club here. When they started, a legend was born.

For years, Jim ran a very popular beginner’s club in Niwot that included regular lessons before the games. He also taught many people throughout the Boulder School District’s Life Long Learning program and students at the Univ of Colorado-Denver. Jim was a joyful mentor to interested students and many went on to be good and active bridge players. A few followed his lead and became directors and teachers as well. Eventually, the Niwot club expanded into an open American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) game, providing a needed evening game opportunity for a wider range of players. He also ran a game at the Carillon, a facility for older adults, which was a wonderful service for the residents as well as another evening venue for all. He achieved one of his life long goals—ACBL Gold Master status—at the Denver sectional in January 2019.

Many bridge players may not know much about Jim’s other passions: dancing, political activism, and most importantly, poetry. Jim was an avid dancer and could frequently be seen in the summer kicking it up on the Mall at “ Bands on the Bricks “ or swing dancing above the Mercury Cafe. He also advocated passionately for social justice in local and national elections including Colorado Caucus events.

At the youthful age of 72, he began writing poetry and verse. He performed spoken word poetry at the Folsom Street Café in 2011 and then went on to open mics at the Laughing Goat, often hurrying from a bridge games to make it to the show. Jim was greatly admired and performed at many regional and out-of-state festivals. With his friend, Marcus, he would perform street poetry from famous poets at the Pearl Street Mall. You could find Jim performing his poetry at the Mercury Café in downtown Denver and pretty much all over the state of Colorado. Jim’s photo on his ACBL Teacher Profile is an image from the Frozen-man poetry festival in Nederland CA, where one year he won the “Deadman Poet Impersonation” of Paul Lawrence Dunbar. In 2018 he published a book on this poetry entitled “ Poetry and Verses on the Nature of Things”. At this time he began serious touring of poetry festivals promoting his book across the country. He was awarded honorable mention at the San Francisco Poetry Festival and began performing with 50 Shades of Blue mixing blues music with his poetry. Recently, he began recording spoken word poetry with 50 Shades of Blue accompaniment. Lastly, he had been working on a second poetry book, that his children plan to publish and continue his legacy of poetry and verse.

Jim is survived by his four children mentioned above and a brother, George Steele, from Glen Allen VA, along with four grandchildren: Melody of Springhill FL, Brad of Livermore CA, and Ally and Kristen of Monroe OH, and two great grandchildren: Emma of Silverdale WA and Chloe of Springhill FL. He was an uncle to Michele, Jon, and James H. Steele III, all from various Virginia locations. James will be sadly missed, but his legacy will live on in the hearts of many that we know and more than we can begin to imagine.


Tributes to Jim as Poet

Third Friday Open Mic | Friday April 19, 2019 at 6pm | Denver Open Media
700 Kalamath St.Denver, CO 80204
We will be having a tribute to James H. Steele Jr. 
He was our featured poet this month. We are heartbroken.

Here is a TRIBUTE at the Mercury Cafe on April 14 at 7pm

Here is another TRIBUTE to Jim on Monday April 15 at 9pm at Wesley Chapel in Boulder.

Here is another beautiful page devoted to Jim’s contributions to the poetry community of Boulder.

8 thoughts on “James H Steele jr”

  1. For Jim (the man of) Steele

    You were walking
    your beat
    that night

    a bevy of poems
    on your shoulder

    new ones
    in your mind

    paying a Poet’s

    to the cool air
    on your cheek

    Blake Street lights
    feathering the lines

    on your way
    from one gig
    to the next

    never reading
    a poem
    the same way

    you tempted
    the devil

    at the crossroads

    looked him
    in the eye

    threw down verses
    a pulpit preacher

    You put rhythm
    to injustice

    and justice
    into rhyme

    weighing every
    fire-lit word

    your voice

    will never

    be silenced

    every Denver Poet

    a few notes

    of you
    in them

    like blood

    only better

    Valerie A Szarek
    April 11, 2019

    1. What a beautiful poem~I will forever be grateful to Jim for turning me on to the amazing world of bridge. I’d like to say RIP, but I’ll bet Jim is far too busy with his poetry, bridge, music, and joie de vivre to be doing much resting. A true Renaissance man.

  2. So sad to learn of Jim Steele,s death. He is the reason that I and many others play Duplicate Bridge today. The bridge community will miss The Man of Steele.

  3. Jim’s games in Niwot and Boulder are what introduced me to Bridge and to my wife, Nancy.

    We will miss him.

  4. I was in Seth Harris’s Readers’ Laboratory group with Jim for four years. During that time I got to watch The Man of Steele develop his poetic powers: his passion for voice, word, and feelings. The work he was doing with 50 Shades of Blue toward the end of his days was really something–that music, those words, just waiting for each other. Miss you, you old rascal!

    Carrying the Notes
    For Jim Steele
    by Kathleen Cain

    “Every Denver poet carries a few notes of you in them.”
    Valerie Szarek

    I’ll take G and B minor from the scales.
    G always a good place to begin, and good
    to come back ‘round to again

    and B minor, that eventual acceptance of life
    and death (even Bach and Tchaikovsky admitted it)
    laced with a sometimes-small, sometimes-large
    complaint. Sometimes where the blues begin.
    And hey, you know, they never end.

    I’ll keep that Virginia gentleman’s accent
    that could sculpt the word “leisure” into
    linguistic pleasure with its every utterance
    and repeat. And repeat. And keep the beat,

    whether to a bass or a drum or a butterfly’s
    wings. A G-note. I’ve heard it. Oh, Butterfly!
    You can fly so high now, there in the sky,
    above the whys. Oh, sing, Butterfly, I know
    you can. Lean a little closer to my ear, won’t
    you? Let’s hear it!

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