BOCA RATON, FL Joan Strause Steele died February 7, in Boca Raton, Florida surrounded by her children. Born in 1922 in Richmond, VA to Elsa and Philip Strause, she was the generous oldest sister to Anne and Phyllis. At Thomas Jefferson High School she was an excellent student, accomplished athlete, and led many school-wide activities. She attended Smith College where she majored in Political Science, graduating with honors in 1943.
In 1941 she met the love of her life, Richard Steele, at a Christmas party given by her mother in Richmond for Army officers from nearby Fort Lee. They were married in 1943 before Richard deployed to the South Pacific.
After the war they moved to Winston Salem, NC where Richard founded the Salem Company, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. Joan was integral to the development and success of the business, sitting on the Board of Directors and influencing the clothing designs. The Joan Steele line was named for her.
The most important events in her life were the arrival of her three children: Andrew in 1947; Philip in 1949; and Nancy in 1951. In Greensboro, NC where they moved in 1950, she devoted her life to nurturing her family in a warm, intellectually stimulating, artistically-oriented, and athletic household. For nearly 60 years she was a gracious hostess known for her excellent cooking, beautiful home, and deep involvement in the artistic, social, and golf/tennis communities of Greensboro. In 1977 the Steeles began wintering in Boca Raton.
Joan was an avid reader and authored innumerable thoughtful, personal notes. She was also a great appreciator of the arts and early Southern antiques. She traveled widely throughout the world. She was the quintessential lady married to the consummate gentleman.
She leaves her three loving children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, all of whom fondly remember delicious meals and stimulating conversation around her dining room table. Most importantly, Joan and Richard's deep, abiding love for each other will continue to inspire all her family and friends.
The family will hold a private memorial gathering. Donations to celebrate Joan's life may be given to the Florida Lifelong Learning Society at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL or to Smith College in Northampton, MA.
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