Published 3:26 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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Columbus, NC–Kaye Marilyn Steele died April 13, 2020, at Tryon Estates, the retirement community in Columbus, N.C., where she had lived since 2000. She was 88 years old. The cause was complications related to congestive heart failure.


Kaye was born Kaye Marilyn Meyer on March 26, 1932, in Altoona, Pa., to Carl and Helen Meyer. She was an only child and grew up in Altoona, active in her Methodist Church youth group, where she met William M. Steele, Jr. After Kaye graduated with a B.A. in education from Dickinson College, Bill and Kaye were married September 11, 1954, in Altoona, and soon after left for France, where Bill served in the Army Corps of Engineers until the end of 1955. Bill, a mechanical engineer and manufacturing executive, took a job with York Industries in York, Pa., and then with Tecumseh Products in Tecumseh, Mich.

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Bill and Kaye had three children: Darryl, born in 1956; Bruce, born in 1959; and Teresa, born in 1965. Darryl died of meningitis in 1966; the family moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1970, where Bill was president of Kelvinator Corp. In 1977, they relocated again to Cullman, Ala., where Bill headed the Americold Co., and where the couple later opened and ran a successful custom draperies store. Bill and Kaye retired to Tryon Estates in 2000, in part because the beauty of Western N.C. reminded them of where they grew up.


Kaye was a member of Tyron United Methodist Church in Tryon, N.C., and was active in her community everywhere she lived, serving often on her churches’ building and finance committees and volunteering for other causes. She proudly helped organize local celebrations for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, was a poll worker, and served many years on the Cullman School Board. At Tryon Estates, she became president of the residents’ organization, among other involvements, and wrote for the monthly newsletter right up until her final illness.


On summer vacations, the Steele family traveled widely throughout the U.S. in various motorhomes, and Kaye set foot in Alaska, her 50th state, in 2013 on a cruise with her family. She and Bill had visited Italy, and she spent two weeks touring Europe by bus with Bruce in 1980. When she was at home, she loved romantic movies and was a particular fan of Gone With the Wind and the TV shows MASH and Downton Abbey. She loved Christmas, shopping for it all year long, and every December with Bruce baked hundreds of sand tarts, from the family’s 100-year-old cookie recipe. She was a voracious reader, especially of historical fiction, and was addicted to her handheld solitaire game and word search puzzles. She was also a 40-year fan of Crimson Tide football, after Bruce attended the University of Alabama.


Kaye loved her family and her pets and grieved terribly when her 18-year-old cat Twinkle died a few years ago. She considered Tammie Eddy Brown, of Cullman, Ala., who took over the drapery business, to be like a daughter. She felt unmoored after losing Bill in July 2018 but carried on with her community involvements and enjoyed visits with Bruce and his husband, Christopher. She is survived by Bruce and Christopher, of Fairview, N.C.; Teresa, her estranged daughter, of Huntsville, Ala.; and one grandson, Ryan Kim, of New York City.


A memorial service will be planned once social distancing restrictions are lifted.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to any Humane Society.


An online guest register is available at www.mcfarlandfuneralchapel.com


McFarland Funeral Chapel & Crematory

Tryon, NC