Marion Steese

Marion Steese

Those who loved Marion Steese can’t help wondering how many promising children were born on December 9 to compensate for her loss.

Marion died at age 90 on Dec. 9, 2022, in San Luis Obispo, her home of the past two years after many years in Upland, Calif., and before that, Fredonia, NY.

As the fibers tethering Marion to life broke free, her feet were already touching down on the other side. She scripted her passing not as maudlin, nor even particularly nostalgic. What was coming was best regarded as only an interruption, she told her loved ones; such was her certainty of eternal life.

This was an affirmation of her early years, having been born Marion Isabel Banks on June 10, 1932 on the range in New Brunswick, Canada, where her father was a Baptist minister, like her maternal grandfather. She carried with her the dignity and near-formality of the people of Nova Scotia, her ancestors both a loving and resolute people.

She graduated from Springfield College in Palmer, Mass., and married Peter Steese in 1958. They followed Peter’s career in academia, living for a time in Cleveland, Ohio and State College, Pa. before moving to Fredonia, NY

She had a 20-year association with SUNY Fredonia, including as director of Student Support Services. For five years, she was director of the Fredonia Migrant Child Care Center. She worked for five years into her retirement at Lanterman Developmental Center, and taught art classes for the Upland Senior Center until 2020. She moved to Atascadero in 2021 to be nearer to family.

Marion, in her later years evoked a woman far younger. She took up ballroom dancing after the death of her husband, and painted and oversaw the commission of large wall murals in her 70s and 80s, including a mural depicting the arc of the Biblical Story at her beloved church, St. Mark’s, Upland. Perhaps, her largest palette was the interior of the house on Castile Heights that she and Peter built in the 1970s.

Marion revealed 90 as a pretender at dust and frailty. Ninety years was fleeting; it is no time at all. It was a blur of brilliant, blended color on a fast, determined train.

She was predeceased by her husband of more than 30 years, Peter; her later-life partner of 10 years, Paul Sturwold Sr., and her parents, John Kenneth and Charlotte Kinsman Banks. She is survived by her two daughters, Deborah (Peter) Hewitt, of Atascadero, Calif., and Laura (David) Harman of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, grandson Boden and granddaughter Moriah; a sister, Elinor Valentine, of Williamsburg, Va.; a brother, Kenneth Banks, of Beamsville, Ontario; nephews, Harry and John Warren, Chris and Joel Banks, and a niece, Wendy Banks.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Marion’s honor to the Salvation Army, or St. Jude’s Hospital.