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William Steen

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William Steen Obituary
William E. Steen

William E. Steen, who was known for his activities in cultural, civic and retail circles, has died at the age of 91.


In San Francisco he served as president of the Society of Asian Arts, founded the American Decorative Arts Forum at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, of which he was a trustee, and also was president of the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design. In Portsmouth, N.H. he was an overseer of the Strawbery (stet) Banke outdoor history museum.


Mr. Steen was chairman of the Northern California Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization and in Kyoto, Japan, chaired the YPO University, a weeklong learning and social gathering of its worldwide members.


The son of Nora and Enoch Steen of Wilmette, Illinois, Mr. Steen grew up on Chicago's North Shore, was graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka; spent two years at Northwestern University and, after serving a commission in the U.S. Navy in World War II, completed his business degree at the University of Michigan.


Mr. Steen began his career working for Montgomery Ward as a copy writer for its catalogue, eventually joining his father and brother in the family's retail enterprises.


Along with family members, Mr. Steen was known in retail circles for their ownership of several upscale clothing stores: in Washington, D.C., for Lewis & Thos. Saltz; in Chicago for Higgins, Frank and Hill and in San Francisco for Bullock & Jones on Union Square.


In the Mann County community of Belvedere where he and his wife Martha resided for many years, Mr. Steen served as the town's fire commissioner. He was once named Belvedere's Man of the Year for numerous civic activities among which was a Bi-Centennial Fourth of July block party for the entire island and lagoon. He also served as foreman of the Mann County Grand Jury.


A travel buff, Mr. Steen was a passenger on a ship distinguished as the 21st in history to transit the Northwest Passage. In further explorations, he joined an expedition that girdled the globe, not east-to-west but from the North to the South Pole. He also journeyed from Paris to Beijing-by train, stopping enroute at major cultural sites.


Together with his wife Martha, who survives him, the Steens in later years resided at the San Francisco Towers. Other survivors include a number of nieces and nephews.


For those wishing to make donations in Mr. Steen's memory, the family suggests the American Decorative Arts Forum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco CA 94118-4502.


A memorial event in Mr. Steen's honor will be held on May 10, details of which can be obtained by contacting his family.


Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Apr. 24 to Apr. 26, 2014
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