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Dietitian Betty Steele loved providing comfort, desserts

Jeff Himler
| Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Betty Steele planned diets for hospital patients that worked hand-in-hand with doctors' treatment. But she was less worried about health impacts when it came to foods she enjoyed and shared with friends.

According to her son, Jeffrey, she never skipped dessert — especially apple pie, her favorite treat.

“She ate lots of desserts, but she had the cholesterol level of somebody half her age,” he said. “She said, ‘I'd rather live to be 93 and happy than 95 and deprived.' She lived to be almost 99.”

Mrs. Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Steele, 98, formerly of Ligonier, died Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Cloverwood Senior Living, Pittsford, N.Y. Born in Ligonier on Oct. 16, 1918, she was a daughter of the late William A. and Mary Agnes Frye.

After graduating from Ligonier Valley High School, Mrs. Steele earned a degree in home economics in 1939 from Penn State University. She worked as a dietitian at several hospitals in Cincinnati and Youngstown, Ohio, and served in that role on a substitute basis at Latrobe Area Hospital.

Enjoying and sharing food was an important part of her life from a young age, when her family took in boarders at their home at Ligonier's Fairfield and Loyalhanna streets.

“In the 1920s and '30s, when it was a boardinghouse, she'd get up in the morning to milk the cow,” her son said. “She'd help my grandmother make homemade bread in their outdoor, beehive oven.”

Mrs. Steele recounted stories of handing out food during the Great Depression to those without a job or home. “They would come down the railroad tracks and come to the back door to get a sandwich,” her son said.

She continued that hospitality through the decades.

“She was a very caring person, very talkative and friendly. She made people feel comfortable,” her son said. “She would invite people in for Thanksgiving and Christmas if their family was out of town.”

A good bridge player who also was good with sums, Mrs. Steele helped with the finances and running the cash register when her mother and sister, June Millison, operated the Town House restaurant out of the family homestead from 1951 to 1994.

After her husband, A. Rhea Steele, died in 1969, she assisted at Ligonier's Covenant Presbyterian Church. “She worked for years in the church office, counting the money after the Sunday service and helping with the financial administration,” her son recalled.

Mrs. Steele is survived by son Jeffrey Steele and his wife, Julie, of Pittsford, N.Y.; two grandsons, Ryan Steele and his wife, Victoria, of Dayton, Ohio, and Kevin Steele of Fairfield, Conn.; and great-granddaughter Erin Steele.

Friends will be received from 10 a.m. Saturday until an 11 a.m. service at J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel, 144 E. Main St., Ligonier. Interment will be in Ligonier Valley Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to Covenant Presbyterian Church, 200 N. Market St., Ligonier, PA 15658.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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