Seattle Times, The (WA) - June 24, 1993
Deceased Name: JOHANNA STEIL; EDITOR, WORLD TRAVELER AND DEVOTED CHARITIES VOLUNTEER
Johanna Steil, former managing editor of Mademoiselle magazine, was a world traveler and devoted volunteer for Seattle-area charities.
Mrs. Steil, a Seattle resident for more than 50 years, died of cancer in Seattle Saturday. She was 85.
Born in 1908 in Ritzville, Wash., Mrs. Steil began her journalism career in her mid-20s in New York as a receptionist and manuscript reader for McCall's magazine. She worked her way up to managing editor of Mademoiselle magazine in the late 1930s. During her five-year tenure, circulation skyrocketed from 56,000 to 560,000.
"People described her as a very strong, courageous person. She was very articulate and very independent," said her son, Peter Steil.
Mrs. Steil, the former Johanna Ellen Hoffman, met her future husband, Melville Steil, president of Seattle's Alaska-Artic Furs, on a Panama Canal cruise. They married in 1941.
Her employer "forced her to take a cruise because she was working too hard," Peter said.
Mrs. Steil soon resigned from her editing position to settle in Seattle, raise her children and volunteer for charity organizations.
"She was not frustrated that the career path had been changed," Peter said.
Mrs. Steil was a member of the Maude B. Parson's Guild of Children's Hospital, a support group that raised funds for the hospital, and a volunteer for the St. Nicholas Guild of the Epiphany Church, where she helped teach Sunday school for four years.
She also volunteered more than 500 hours for the escort service at the University of Washington Hospital and spent two years volunteering at the university's psychology-department library.
Mrs. Steil also compiled and edited brochures, manuals and guidebooks for organizations.
"She was in leadership roles. People were very important to her," Peter said. "She had a strong sense of wanting to be involved, providing help where she could in the community."
When her children were grown, Mrs. Steil took trips to Europe or across the country every other year, Peter said.
In 1960, she went to the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. "She was pressed into service to be the interpreter for the lone Turkish athlete," Peter said. "They both spoke the same German dialect."
Mrs. Steil caught the travel bug at an early age. In fact, she was born in Washington while her parents were in the middle of a worldwide vacation.
"It was total coincidence that she was born there," Peter said.
"Her father was in the import-export business. He liked to travel, so they moved around a lot."
She grew up in Europe and attended 29 schools in 19 countries, where she learned to speak five languages, including German and French. She graduated from the University of Berlin.
"She was an avid reader," Peter said. "Her knowledge of languages was really part of what nurtured her interest in the written word."
Even though she loved to travel, Mrs. Steil always returned to her home state.
In a Seattle Times interview published in 1950, Mrs. Steil said of Seattle: "The scenery in the Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful and the people the nicest I have ever known."
In addition to her son Peter, Mrs. Steil is survived by her husband, of Seattle; and two grandchildren in New York.
Another son, James, died in 1984.
At her request, no services will be held. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the James Steil Discovery Fund at the Lakeside School, 14050 First Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98125.
Author: WYLIE WONG