GORE BAY – Mike Steele, a friend to many people, loved his family and his community and would help out anyone in need. These were some of the comments from people who knew him, as the Recorder was putting together quotes and comments for a story on Mr. Steele.
Mr. Steele, a prominent Gore Bay businessman, passed away at Mindemoya Hospital on Sunday, January 31 at the age of 58. He leaves behind his mother Eleanor (father Doug, deceased) his children, Connor (Courtney), and Stefanie (Logan), his partner Myette Page and her children and his sister Anne Steele-Giffin, as well as other family members.
“Professionally, I dealt with Mike for a number of years,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne. “Mike is definitely going to be missed, he did a lot for the community; for instance, he was on the fire department for a lot of years—many as fire chief. He ran the hardware store in town for a long while, and he did a lot of things for the town over the years.”
Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon-Barrie Island Township told the Recorder that he was a roommate of Mr. Steele’s for two years when they both lived in London, Ontario. “He was a great guy and always fun to be around. When he moved back to Manitoulin he became a member of the fire department for about 25 years, many as the fire chief, was a business man in town, was a member of the business improvement association (BIA) and I believe he was involved in the fish and game club for a number of years.”
“Mike was a friend, and a strong member of the business community and the community itself,” said Mr. Hayden. “He was a happy go lucky guy, who would help out anyone.”
Jack and Jenn Bould were good friends of Mike. “He was my best friend,” stated Mr. Bould. “He was the kind of guy you could sit with and not say a word and still be comfortable. My daughter points out that as we aged we both became hard of hearing. We could sit in a crowded room and make grunts and noises, we both know what we were saying but to the casual observer it must have seemed strange.”
“He was a great music lover and listened to all kinds of music,” said Mr. Bould. “I say that but you must know only variations of rock are music. He didn’t really have a favourite band but I guess Rush would be at the top of the list. His first band was for a school concert, Grade 7 or 8. In high school he was the social convenor for a while. In that role he booked bands for school dances. He was also a prefect at least one year.”
The Boulds noted that Mr. Steele “had a great sense of humour. He could find humour in most situations and he loved to laugh.”
“When he was younger he enjoyed hunting and fishing but with age he preferred the warmth of a fire to the cold bush,” continued Mr. Bould, who pointed out Mr. Steele always had about 10 projects on the go between Gore Bay and Meldrum Bay.
“He was generous to a fault,” said the Boulds. “Mike started the July 1 fireworks in Gore Bay.” Often in the first years it was just Mike and Mr. Bould putting on the show. They pointed out for many years if there was a shortfall in funding of the fireworks Mr. Steele would donate the difference. “He extended credit to people in need and if he had a project or odd jobs done he would often hire people that really needed the work.” As well, he often donated to community events with prizes or cash.
Mr. Bould noted, “he loved his community. He was on the fire department for 23 years and was chief for more than half of that and he was very involved with the new fire hall.”
Mr. Steele loved to ride his motorcycle, said the Boulds, he loved the scenery but loved the people he rode with and those he would meet along the way just as much.
“Family was very important to him whether you were his blood or someone he adopted and in his way he let you know,” said Mr. Bould.
The Boulds noted Mr. Steele, “was a humble man. He didn’t flaunt his success and it was his success. In the past I heard people say ‘well the Home Hardware was the family business, he just inherited it,’ which is not true. He worked hard to grow the business, turning it from the little hardware store to what it is now.”
Anne Steele-Giffin, Mr. Steele’s sister, told the Recorder her brother’s death was unexpected. “He’s going to be missed,” she said, noting, “it’s amazing how many lovely condolences and stories we have heard.” She said when Mr. Steele had gotten into a very serious motorbike accident on one of his off-Island biking trips several years ago, “some of the friends he had made motorbiking stayed in the hospital with him until I got there. It was amazing see a gang of bikers in the middle of the ICU at the hospital making sure their friend was okay.”