Geraldine Steen

Geraldine Steen Feb 7, 1919-Feb 26, 2013 Geraldine Steen departed this life in the early morning on February 26, 2013. Born in Runge, Karnes County, Texas, she and her husband Gates Steen arrived in Austin with $20 and a very used car. Their first residence was a tiny apartment in the basement of a sorority house. Gates finished his undergraduate degree at the University of Texas and went on to the Law School. Geraldine went to work as a secretary for the State of Texas, a vocation for which she was trained at our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio and then at business school. Gates went off to war following the events of 1941. Geraldine went back home to Runge during the war years and worked in her dad's grocery store. Her family was part of the German-Czech migration to Texas, which began in the 1860's, landing in Galveston and settling in Karnes, Goliad and DeWitt Counties. She spoke German and some Czech as a little girl. Her father, John Ben Janecek, did business in four languages - Czech, German, English and Spanish. It is said that he was not always aware that he was speaking different languages to his varied clientele. For a time she was his purchaser, and one time made a deal for a large quantity of cane syrup, far more than John Ben would have ordered. For a short time there was some tension between them, until the syrup sold out completely and at a substantial profit, given the shortage of crystal sugar in the wartime rationing. She always had a knack for economy, which she demonstrated throughout her long life. The War ended, Gates came home; they had children, and built a house in which they lived for 45 years. Gates pioneered an area of law; Geraldine served as a secretary in the Texas Senate and House throughout the 1950's. Her sons, nieces and nephews were at home in the State Capitol, for them a vast and friendly playground. As the 1960's drew to a close and the law practice grew, she left the State and joined Gates at the law firm, where she was a quiet presence, not often in the office, but in a very real way, the backbone of the firm. This country girl went on to travel the world - she and Gates visited every continent at least once. When asked which was her favorite, she said, "All of them". When pressed, she said Africa and Switzerland. She became a gracious ballroom dancer. She dressed tastefully, even elegantly. She sewed, ironed, kept house, played ball, helped her kids with homework and, like all her siblings, had a pronounced playful and comic side. But most of all, in many of our memories, she was a gifted cook with a natural feel for good food. She could cook anything unforgettably. Naturally athletic, a tomboy as a girl, she was good with tools and could fix about anything. She grew geraniums every year in a box garden by her front door. She was active throughout her life in many civic and social organizations, especially Tarrytown Methodist Church and the Austin Woman's Club. Because of her clerical and bookkeeping skills, she was asked to serve as Secretary and Treasurer of her Sunday School class and the Club again and again. Her vocation never left her, and she never entirely left it. Other memberships included Headliners Club, the Austin Club, the Austin Country Club, the Longhorn Foundation, and various other social and dance clubs. She was a devoted churchgoer, quietly and privately spiritual. She loved birds and small children, delighting especially in little girls. She is survived by her son Henry Steen, Jr. and his wife Dow Steen, and by her grandsons Harley Steen and Jeremy Steen, all of Austin. She is also survived by her son John Steen and his wife Pamela Steen, and by her grandson Robert Gates Steen, all of Houston. Her funeral will be Friday, March 1, 2013 at Weed-Corley-Fish North Chapel, 3125 North Lamar Blvd. Austin, Texas 78705/512-452-8811. Viewing is at 10:00 AM, Service at 11:00 AM. Graveside is 12 PM at Austin Memorial Park, 2800 Hancock Drive, Austin, Texas 78731. Reception is at 1 PM, Gusto Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, 4800 Burnet Road, Austin, Texas 78756/512-458-1100. Obituary and guestbook available online at


Funeral Home

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Homes & Cremation Services - Austin
3125 N Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX 78705
(512) 452-8811

Published in Austin American-Statesman on Feb. 28, 2013