Aaron Haggar (Al) Steinsiek died Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the age of 96.
Al was born in Poteau, Okla., on Aug. 3, 1921, to Fred and Amanda Bell Steinsiek. When he was 15, he lied about his age to join the Army in Texas so that he could contribute to the family income, being too young for programs such as the CCC during the Great Depression. Discharged a year later with his Marksman badge, he worked at many jobs, including hunting guide, clerk in his brother’s store and truck driver. He joined the Navy in 1942 and trained in Naval aviation at San Diego and at the University of Colorado. He came to Oak Harbor in January 1943 as an aviation radioman in the Navy. He was in Fleet Airwing Six and with Naval Intelligence. He also served on Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific, and as a Navy photographer he documented life on Bikini Atoll before the inhabitants were evacuated for the bomb tests.
He met his future wife, Oak Harbor native Elizabeth Wheeler, when he went to the telephone office where she worked to wire money to his mother. They were married Aug. 5, 1943, at the Wheeler home south of town, and they recently celebrated their 74th anniversary. After the war, he kept up his pilot’s license for a few years flying small planes around western Washington. Although they lived briefly in Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona, the Steinsieks lived in Oak Harbor for most of their marriage, and all four of their children were born here. Al worked for various construction firms in the region as a carpenter, foreman and eventually job superintendent until his retirement in 1984, when he developed an interest in genealogy that resulted in trips across the United States and to Germany in search of records and living relatives before the advent of the internet. And nothing brought him more pleasure than visits from, or photos of, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Al was a born storyteller, with a never-ending trove of tales from his childhood, from his war service, from the job, and sometimes from pure imagination, such as being mayor of Bugtussel. He had a firm sense of right and wrong, and ran for county commissioner in 1968 just so it would be a two-person race. He was also well-known around town in the 1980s and 1990s as the “tomato man,” raising hundreds of tomato seedlings (from saved seed) for sale each spring in his greenhouse. He always said he did it more for the people he met than to make money. During a rough period early in his life, he made a conscious decision to focus on the good instead of the bad, and for many decades never passed a day without finding humor in something.
He was active for many years in the International Order of Oddfellows, including Noble Grand as one of his offices. He was a member of Oak Lodge in Oak Harbor and Truth Lodge of Sedro-Woolley. He was also a member of the Garfield Masonic Lodge of La Conner, where he was a life member, and held many positions including worshipful master. He received his 50-year pin in 2012. He was DeMolay advisor to the Whidbey Island chapter in the 1960s and early 1970s.
He is survived by and will be greatly missed by his children and their spouses, Paul and Sumiko Steinsiek and Philip and Evon Steinsiek, all of Oak Harbor; Kathryn and Harvey Lord of Connecticut; and daughter-in-law Patty Steinsiek of Bonney Lake; his grandchildren and their spouses, Carol and David Lawson of Mount Vernon, Edward and Sara Steinsiek, and Jeremy Steinsiek of Oak Harbor, Richard and Ryoko Steinsiek of Japan, Joel and Amanda Lord of New York, Timothy and Aimee Wilson of Alabama, Tawnya and Travis McKinney of Spokane Valley, and Lisa and Craig Hale of Lake Stevens; sixteen great-grandchildren; step-granddaughter Michelle Boyer and her family of Milton; sister-in-law Rose Wheeler of Arizona; many nieces, nephews and cousins in this country and in Germany. He was predeceased by his brothers and son George.
His wife Elizabeth passed away just 22 days after he did.
The family would like to thank the staff of Regency on Whidbey for their kind care of Al in recent months, and for putting up with his jokes.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Oct. 21 at the First United Methodist Church, 1050 SE Ireland St., Oak Harbor.