Tearful farewell to Orange County “Childhood Champion” Bill Steiner – Orange County Register

“Would it be intrusive to send a photographer to your father’s memorial?” I asked one of Bill Steiner’s sons.

“Dad would prefer it to be televised live,” he joked.

And so, on Friday, January 13, as he wished, hundreds of people thronged Orange’s Covenant Presbyterian Church to celebrate Steiner’s life and share their fondest memories of the child protection advocate. Steiner, loved by so many, died December 15 while on a trip to visit his grandson in New York. He was 85.

Daughter Laurie Hendron quizzed the many familiar faces in the crowd — movers and shakers in the county GOP, elected officials, charity executives, county workers, friends from all walks of his life — and informed them that they were part of Steiner’s script.

“He planned it,” Hendron said.

Bill Steiner as a boy

A video then played, spanning roughly 80 years of Steiner’s life, from his days as a wide-eyed, bare-bottomed baby through the Great Depression to his days as a Boy Scout to his days as an editor at the high school newspaper. There he was, hopping for apples as a sorority boy in college; There he was in thick, dark-rimmed glasses, doing his master’s degree in social work at USC.

There was Steiner with children when he worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Adoption and when he worked on treatment programs for abused and neglected children and when he became director of the Good Samaritan Centers Children’s Agency and when he took the helm at Orange Albert Sitton County Home for Abused and Neglected Children.

Bill Steiner, Child Welfare Advocate (courtesy of the Steiner family)Steiner with children as he used his considerable charm to replace the Sitton home, raising approximately $8 million to build the spacious Spanish-style Orangewood Children’s Home via a powerful public-private partnership. “This is for the kids!” he chirped while soliciting donations from the county’s rich and powerful.

Steiner with children when he became executive director of the Orangewood Foundation, which would raise millions more for at-risk youth in Orange County.

And Steiner with his own children. When you think of my father, said son Scott Steiner, a Superior Court judge, think of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. He touched so many lives that it would have been a very different world if he had never been in it.

Bill Steiner and his family in Cabo San Lucas (courtesy of the Steiner family)

So said Mike McKenzie, who ended up in Orangewood as a teenager and stayed there until Steiner found his forever family. This changed his life and led him to a career working with underserved children.

So said Yvette Verastegui, who ended up in Orangewood with her siblings and was taken under Steiner’s wing. She is now a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The five Steiner children had hundreds of brothers and sisters, but somehow Steiner always made time for each of them, they said. Son Jim recalls sitting on his lap as Steiner played poker with his buddies – and joined the group as an adult. He and his father showed each other no mercy.

There was politics – the Orange Unified School District board, the Orange City Council, his fateful appointment to the County Board of Supervisors just before bankruptcy. Steiner in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and studied how the rapid changes affected children. Steiner in China for cultural exchange. Steiner smiles with President George W. Bush in one picture and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in another.

He continued his work for abused and neglected children nationwide after leaving the county in 1999. He was an elder in the church and a supporter of their school. There were so many honors and awards – Child Advocate of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Crystal Vision, Lifetime Achievement. Orangewood’s “William ‘Bill’ Steiner Heart of Service Award” is named for him.

Jim Bright, elder of the Covenant Presbyterian Church, asked and collected a single word that describes Steiner: Friendly. caring. Passionate. Compassionate. hopeful. Inspiring. Teacher. Mentor. Servant.

Two of his 16 grandchildren cried as they shared how he sang them lullabies, took them to concerts with thousands of screaming teenagers, showed genuine curiosity about who they were, what they thought, what they liked and didn’t like.

“He was an extraordinary man who had a profound impact on thousands and thousands of people,” said his friend Karen Roper.

In a video filmed years ago for one of Steiner’s many achievement awards, he explained himself.

“It’s all a mystery,” he said. “You put the small pieces together and realize you can make a difference – maybe just in small increments – but for the better, to give a child hope for the future.

“As you go through life, you’ll find that empowers you,” he said. “When you make a difference in life, that’s what it’s all about.”

Steiner was a person of action, a force for good, said Pastor Scott Larson. “If you want to do something to honor Bill’s memory,” he admonished the crowd, “do something good.”

Daughter Hendron pictured Steiner arriving at Pearly Gates and was sure he was treated warmly. “Welcome,” the angels said confidently. “Now it’s time to rest.”

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/13/tearful-farewell-to-orange-county-champion-of-childhood-bill-steiner/ Tearful farewell to Orange County “Childhood Champion” Bill Steiner – Orange County Register

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