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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Russell H. Steel

Russell Harold Steel, 81, of Crandon, passed away Sunday, July 2, 2017 at St. Mary's Hospital in Rhinelander, after a long, courageous battle with COPD.

Born Aug. 26, 1935 in Ladysmith, to Harold and Florence (Brovan) Steel, he graduated from Ladysmith High School in 1953.

He joined the United States Army in January 1955 and served until January 1958, attaining the rank of sergeant and spent most of his time in Germany. After discharge, he returned to Ladysmith and married Arlet Goldsmith on May 3, 1958. They moved to Minneapolis, where he enrolled in the printing trades program at Dunwoody Institute. He then did a six year apprenticeship in Reedsburg and became journeyman printer while working at the local newspaper.

He then worked at newspapers in Cornell and Wisconsin Rapids and found his heart was in community weekly newspapers, with a dream to own and publish one someday. In 1967 they moved to Crandon and he became publisher of The Forest Republican, taking pride in working hands on and overseeing all steps of the weekly production. In 36 years of publishing the newspaper, they worked through many advances in the technology and never missed a deadline.

For many years, he wrote a weekly column called Swamp Creek News of humorous, real and imagined writings which became popular, written under the name of Ol Swampy. His column, Pipe Smoke followed later, focused on current issues.

A lifetime outdoorsman, he loved to fish, especially for bass, panfish and trout and enjoyed deer hunting, camaraderie of the Fourth North deer camp near Spooner where he joined family for opening weekend for many years. He also took several fly-in fishing trips to Canada with family and friends and cherished memories of fishing and camping with his son Mark in Wisconsin, Canada and Michigan's UP.

For 23 years, they lived on Lake Lucerne where there were many family get-togethers. A loving husband and father, he enjoyed meeting his two new great-granddaughters born this Spring.

A member of Crandon Lions Club, Ducks Unlimited and St. Luke's United Methodist Church, he collected and restored vintage fishing reels, collected old glass-lined Thermos bottles, enjoyed playing harmonica and recently learned to play the keyboard.

The Forest Republican was recognized with a print media award by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators in 1992-93. They sold the newspaper in 2003 and retired to enjoy traveling and more time with family.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Arlet; a son, Mark of Topsham, Me.; a daughter, Kathryn (Pete) Springer of St. Germain; five grandchildren; three great-granddaughters; two brothers James (Lorraine) Steel, Hudson and Michael (Carol) Steel, Chippewa Falls; two sisters, Carol Clay of Menomonee Falls and Linda Jacobs of Mukwonago.

Visitation will be held Wednesday, July 19 at Weber Hill Funeral Home in Crandon from 10 a.m. until time of a Celebration of Life Service at noon, with Pastor Robert Kenas officiating. A luncheon will be served immediately after the service at St. Luke's United Methodist Church. Memorials are appreciated to Crandon Public Library or St. Luke's United Methodist Church.

 


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