He was the coordinator for Public Lands Partnership and husband of Colorado Seventh Judicial District Judge (and former Ouray County Attorney) Mary Deganhart.
Steele and Deganhart were out to dinner at the Adobe Inn when he collapsed from cardiac arrhythmia, according to County Coroner Colleen Hollenbeck. He died almost immediately, despite CPR and a quick response from Ridgway Emergency Medical Services. Steele was 55.
He was born and raised in Springfield, Vt. According to Deganhart, he took a trip to Colorado with an uncle when he was 16 years old and “vowed he’d return to live here some day.” He did move to Colorado, to take a job as Archuleta County administrator, in 2002. Deganhart was an attorney in private practice in Pagosa Springs at the time. They met, fell in love, and were married in February 2009 at the Colorado National Monument.
Steele followed Deganhart to Ouray County when she took the county attorney position there in 2006. (She was appointed to the district court by Governor John Hickenlooper in 2011.) Semi-retired, Steele took over the coordinator’s job for PLP in 2007. PLP was founded in 1992 as a local forum for people, businesses, local governments and land management agencies tasked (according to its website) “to discuss and promote local action on natural resource issues that affect our economy, ecology and sense of place.” PLP has been involved in the Burn Canyon restoration project in San Miguel County and a slew of restoration, trail building and habitat improvement projects on the Uncompahgre Plateau.
Deganhart and Steele lived off the grid on Log Hill on property they called “SteelHart.” He was a skilled craftsman, with carpentry tools as well as with a tractor. Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett commented that the SteelHart driveway was “a work of art. He doted on Mary. The way he plowed that driveway was an act of love.”
Bill Steele is survived by his wife Mary Deganhart of Ridgway; his parents Charles and Nada Steele of Springfield, Vt.; his brother Bob of New Tripoli, Penn.; his sister Natalee Roberts of Chesterfield, Vt.; nephew C.J. Steele, and niece Jennifer Roberts; “son” Raegan Robb; mother-in-law Elizabeth Deganhart, and brothers-in-law John and Tom Deganhart; three cats – Kitten Pie, Whacky Cat, and Critter – and his beloved horse Drifter. Bill was preceded in death by his grandparents Roy and Nellie Jacobs.
Memorial services are scheduled for Friday, March 9, at 2 p.m. at Crippin Funeral Home Chapel in Montrose. Condolences may also be sent to the family at www.crippinfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Second Chance Humane Society, P.O. Box 2096, Ridgway, CO 81432 or at www.adoptmountainpets.org.