Before his passing on Sunday, Stephen Schleis had forged an 84-year-old trail of laughter, generosity, compassion and wisdom. He was more than a role model to his family. He was a hero.
He raised his five children in a modest three-bedroom home that he and his wife built in Barberton. Their love made it a castle.
Steve broke his back serving in the Navy during World War II
. For 30 years, he found comfort sleeping on the living room floor. Each morning, his children rolled him over so he could crawl to the corner and "walk" himself up the wall. Then we sent him off to work two factory jobs so we could afford private school and an in-ground swimming pool and basketball court on our quarter-acre lot -- things he was far too busy to ever enjoy.
He wouldn't eat until everyone in his household had their plates full. He never complained if he missed out on the apple pie or the warm rolls. Even at the end, confused by dementia and eating pureed food, he wouldn't take a bite without whispering: "You first."
As a younger man, he wrote poetry and loved to fish. In his later years, he enjoyed traveling and watching sports and western movies. He celebrated Christmas to excess, his home a wonderfully tacky beacon of light. His humor was unforgettable, and all who knew him could recite punch lines he delivered throughout his life.
Two years ago, ignoring the prison of his Parkinson's Disease, he took up painting, leaving every child and grandchild a beautiful framed reminder of his love.
Steve was born in the tiny Stark County hamlet of Aultman, retired from Goodyear Aerospace and was a member of Holy Trinity Church until its recent closing.
He is survived by his wife, RoseAnn; his children, Susanna (Jerry) Freeman of Bath Township, Tom of Akron, Barb (Dave) Yoder of Barberton, Paula Schleis of Barberton, and Mike (Loretta) of Akron. He also leaves behind a sister, Clara Rohrer of North Canton, 30 grandchildren and great- grandchildren, and numerous cousins, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and friends who thought the world of him.
Calling hours will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday at Cox Funeral Home, 222 Norton Ave. in Barberton, with services at 2 p.m. Father Carl Ciprian will officiate.