Obituary : Albertha Y. Steele
Albertha (Bert) Youker Steele was born in St. Johnsville, N.Y., on November 13, 1910 and died on October 20 in Martha's Vineyard Hospital. She was the only daughter of Lena and W. Earl Youker of Brooklyn and the beloved wife of Andrew (Andy) Fleming Steele, who died this spring.
Bert grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her father, a lawyer, was elected from the 18th District in Brooklyn to the New York State Assembly. She was baptized into the Church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on November 15, 1912. She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, then Arnold College, in New Haven, Conn. She graduated in 1932 with a B.S. degree in physical education. Her course work included outdoor education, massage, and work with seniors. She was awarded the Butler Cross of Honor. Later, in 1947, Bert received a master's degree in psychology from New York University.
After college, Bert worked as a professional for the Girl Scouts of America. She held executive positions with the Sequoia Girl Scout Council (GSC) in Redwood City, Calif., the Brooklyn GSC in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Mt. Vernon GSC in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. In 1944, Bert was hired for the position of Director of Personnel for the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church USA. She retired from the Board in 1960 to become a homemaker and volunteer at the Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey.
Bert was a long-time, close friend of Andy's first wife, Doris Stone, who died in 1954. Bert and Doris met as young women through their work in the Girl Scouts. At the time of Bert's marriage to Andy, he had three daughters from his first marriage still living at home in Larchmont, N.Y.: Margaret, Susan, and Abbie.
Daughter Margaret Johnson of Endwell, N.Y., died in 1987. Daughter Susan Steele lives in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Daughter Abbie Steele lives in Chilmark. Bert had three Steele granddaughters, Esther Graves and Susan Papenfuss of Ohio and Eve Robinson of Brooklyn, N.Y. She also had three great granddaughters, Meghan, Rebecca and Kristine Graves of Ohio.
In the early 1950s, before her marriage to Andy, Bert purchased a camp in Chilmark. At tea on the last day of vacation with her mom, she learned it was available. The next morning at 9 am she applied for a mortgage at the bank and as planned made the 10 o'clock ferry. She and Andy retired to Chilmark in 1982. Together they built an active and rewarding life enjoying bridge, golf - carrying their own bags - at Mink Meadows, then croquet in Edgartown, church membership, the West Tisbury Grange, and the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society. Bert planted many pine seedlings that stand tall today.
Bert and Andy were active members of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, serving as trustee and treasurer, respectively. Bert was particularly involved in the church improvement society and church events, such as the Christmas Fair and the Strawberry Festival that contributed to the well-being of the church. Bert and Andy served as ushers on Christmas Eve as often as they were able. Bert was regarded as a steady and faithful volunteer at church, always willing to help with even the most mundane tasks.
They were also faithful volunteers for 20-plus years at the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven where neither rain, sleet, nor snow could keep them from their Monday morning assignments.
Albertha was a founding member of the Friends of the Up-Island Council on Aging and worked with great determination and success raising funds for the renovation, completion, and equipping of the Howes House in West Tisbury. In 1998, she was recognized as Martha's Vineyard Up-Island Senior Citizen of the Year.
Bert was a loving companion to Andy. A caring and patient person she was ahead of her time - she took up the computer by attending an Elder Hostel college program off-Island. Her passions included scrabble games, fine cooking, eating chocolate, and collecting sweaters.
Bert's Youker family survivors include four cousins: Jean Burgess of Washington, James and Thomas Norton of New York and Jane Norton McKenzie of Florida, and their many adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Albertha will be held Saturday, Nov. 8, at 12 noon at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, followed by a reception at the church. A summer memorial service is also planned on the Island for sometime in early August 2009.