Army veteran, former pilot had lifelong love of aviation
Charles Steel followed his heart into the clouds but kept his feet firmly planted on the ground.
Likely influenced by cousin Chalmers Goodlin, a renowned test pilot from New Alexandria, Mr. Steel obtained his pilot’s license in 1945, at 18.
“Chalmers bought a DC-10, and my dad flew it from Chicago into Pittsburgh for him,” said Steel’s son, Mac.
Mr. Steel also enjoyed flying Piper Cubs and other planes that belonged to a friend at Latrobe Airport in Unity, now known as Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.
Charles B. Steel Jr. of Salem Township, died Wednesday, June 5, 2019, at Excela Latrobe Hospital. He was 91.
Born Sept. 26, 1927, in Greensburg, he was a son of the late Charles B. Sr. and Blanche Goodlin Steel.
Mr. Steel gave up his pilot’s license in the 1960s, to focus on his growing family, but never lost his interest in aviation.
“I don’t how many books he has on airplanes and aviation,” said daughter Lyn Goodwin. “He stayed current with all that.”
In the 1990s, he operated the camera on aerial photography flights that documented agricultural land in Westmoreland and Fayette counties, his son said. He also helped a local owner restore 1950s Russian MiG jets for resale to collectors.
Mr. Steel enlisted in the Army in November 1954 and completed two years of stateside service, driving a tank and flying a helicopter among other duties.
He drove a tractor-trailer for two years for Lou McCurrity Trucking of Latrobe before beginning a 50-year career as a precision tool-and-die maker. He worked for various Western Pennsylvania machine shops, including at Jeannette’s Elliott Co., but also operated his own home business with a grinder in his garage.
“If the local farmers had a part that broke, he’d get it fixed for them, or he’d sharpen blades for them,” said Goodwin. “He always repaired his own lawn mowers. He worked in his shop up until his 80s. He liked to stay busy.
“He was very particular about things, but he wasn’t fancy. A home-cooked meal was the best thing to him.”
In addition to his parents, Mr. Steel was preceded in death by his first wife, of more than 42 years, Alma, in 1991; his second wife, of nearly 20 years, Norma, in 2014.
He is survived by seven children, Charles (Kathy) of Aliquippa, Paul (Sarah) of Morgantown, W.Va., Mac (Helen) of Jeannette, Scott (Cathy) of Greensburg, Lyn (Roger) Goodwin of Hedgesville, W.Va., Clark (Kayla) of Greensburg and Earl of Newark, Ohio; 10 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews.
A funeral service was held Saturday at Barnhart Funeral Home in Greensburg. Interment with military honors was in Westmoreland Memorial Park.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .