Donald Steelman

Obituary of Donald Richard Steelman

Donald Richard Steelman, age 87, passed away Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at home with members of his family, in Laughlin, Nevada. He was born March 27, 1934, in Lewes, Delaware, to Flossie Gertrude (Mitchell) and Raymond Edward Steelman.


Don grew up in Lewes, close to the sea and surrounded by nature and family, both of which he loved.  His siblings were a half-brother, Charles Lynch, a half-sister, Kathleen Lynch, both of whom were considerably older than Don, an older brother, Edward, and a younger sister, Gail. 


As a youth Don was allowed a lot of freedom to roam through fields and streams, and he enjoyed following his father on walks that sometimes resulted in identifying ancient Native American burial sites.  He also shared with family members an account from when he was about seven or eight years old.  He was aboard a relatively large boat of some sort.  Through a series of events, Don fell overboard, and was underwater long enough to experience what he realized was his own death.  He said that just as he felt his sight blacking out, he saw a brilliant light appearing in his field of vision.  In this light was a large man, who told him that it was not his time to pass, he could not stay – he needed to go back to his life – and immediately he felt a tug on his ankle that resulted in his being hauled back out of the water by some men and resuscitated.  After that experience he never felt the fear of death quite like most folks.


As he grew into adulthood, Don served for several years in the Air Force,  having been stationed in Iceland, Utah and Idaho.  He also served in the Idaho Air National Guard before he left the military for the civilian world, working as a dispatcher for American Airlines until he retired, with a small departure in the middle years, when he ran his own real estate business.  In summing up his real estate experience, he declared that he enjoyed having someone else worry about weekly days off, and time off for vacations - with pay.


Don was constantly busy, and he always had interesting avocations: building trimaran boats; being his own mechanic for the different cars he owned; panning and dry-washing for gold – which earned him a national title; beekeeping, which expanded into a side business of collecting, processing and shipping lion dung to keep bears away from beehives; being a certified Scuba Diving Instructor; and running Aquaskims, an international business producing walk-on-water shoes, like deep skis made of high-density polystyrene foam for buoyancy.


When he retired, he began simultaneously building a monolithic dome  and an airplane hangar, the one to house his family and the other to house the Velocity airplane that he spent over twenty years building.  The airplane was begun in Texas, before he retired, but it followed him to Mohave Valley, Arizona, and kept him fully engaged for years after he was living in the dome.  He finally got his Velocity air-worthy, and flew it on its maiden flight; some of his most hard-earned and appreciated work.


In 1954, while on active Air Force duty in Utah, Don met Letha Eileen Doman; they fell in love and eloped on August 13, 1954, in Woods Cross, Utah.  Along the way, with all of the other adventures, he and Letha managed to raise a family of three daughters: Teresa Lea, Carolynn Eileen, and Sheryl Ann.  Music was a delight to both Don and Letha, and was enthusiastically embraced by all three girls.  To this day it remains one of their family’s greatest satisfactions, along with strong academics and faith-centered activity.


Don served the Lord in many capacities, in teaching and leadership roles in Bishoprics, Scouting, Sunday School and Stake-level positions.  He and Letha also worked in the Dallas Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they lived in that area. 


Some time before they moved to Arizona, they began baking many more loaves of fresh bread than they could possibly eat, and they loved giving fresh bread to friends and neighbors, and especially to those who needed a little something good in their life.  Don’s skill as a bread baker was one of his most appreciated talents, along with his ability to talk to just about anyone about Life and lift their views of their day.


After Letha’s passing in 2008, Don married Gail Anne Shelton in 2010 ; that marriage ended in divorce after a few years.  Still longing for companionship, Don married Marilyn Schafer-Meyer in 2015, and they supported each other in easy days and in the difficult days that came.


Toward the end of his life Don developed Parkinson’s Disease, which caused him great frustration. Eventually, baking loaves of bread to give to friends and acquaintances became too difficult to maintain.  In the end it even took Don’s beautiful whistling that for many years could be heard wherever he went, whether working or simply walking around.


Don is survived by his wife, Marilyn Schafer-Meyer Steelman, of Laughlin, Nevada; his daughters, Teresa (Kirk) Richmond of Rexburg, Idaho; Carolynn Steelman-Valdez, also of Rexburg, Idaho; and Sheryl (Larry) Langfitt of Belle Fourche, South Dakota; 13 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren; his sister, Gail (Kei) Amemiya, of Lewes, Delaware; and friends and acquaintences innumerable.


Don was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Letha (Doman) Steelman; 1 granddaughter and 2 great-grandchildren; his half-brother, Charles (Kitty) Lynch; his half-sister, Kathleen (Jay) Bradford; and his brother, Edward (Victoria) Steelman.


Don will be buried alongside his first wife, Letha, in Ontario, Oregon.  A Family Memorial will be held in the Spring, the date yet to be determined.  For those wishing to contribute in memory of Don, we know he would be pleased to suggest an organization searching for a cure for Parkinson’s Disease such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation (, their local Hospice Organization, or a charity of their choosing. 


We appreciate the patience and help that Kraft-Sussman’s staff have demonstrated as we’ve worked through details to honor both Don Steelman’s life, and his wishes upon his passing.

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