HIGHLAND — Walter M. Steiner, age 90 of Highland, Illinois, died Thursday, April 8, 2021, at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, Illinois.
He was born on March 25, 1931, in Highland, the son of Louis and Louise (nee Meffert) Steiner.
On April 5, 1952, he married Betty J. Miener at Grantfork E&R Church.
She survives in rural Highland.
He was a member of Evangelical United Church of Christ.
Walter, one of the first babies in the new Highland Hospital, was born March 25, 1931 to Louis and Louise (Meffert) Steiner.
He grew up with his brother, Milton and sisters, Edith and Lillian on the family farm NE of Grantfork.
He married Betty Miener on April 5, 1952, and together they made their home on the family farm where they later raised four daughters.
While Walter would have loved but never had the chance to go to college, he and Betty worked hard to make sure their daughters did. Family was important to Walter and he loved spreading joy to children.
His family worked hard together but played together, too; enjoying bonfires, hayrides, ice skating and more.
There were many animals on his farm, sheep "to keep the pond banks clean," hogs "to pay for college," cattle "to keep us active," and horses "just for fun."
He was always eager to open the tractor door or saddle up a horse to share the experience with a friend.
In fact, he even played Santa Claus at Famous Barr in St. Louis, Missouri.
Walter was a member of the Grantfork United Church and Highland Evangelical United Church of Christ.
He was active in 4-H as a youth, winning the 4-H Grand Entry Award in 1948 for his hog project.
As an adult, he served as a Leader of the Grantfork 4-H Club, instilling his love for "all things ag" among the local youth.
Professionally, Walter was known as a pioneer in land conservation.
His initial presentation on No-Till farming at a University of Illinois Extension meeting in the early 60's was so well-received, they had to send out for more chairs and food.
Walter helped design some of the earliest no-till farm implements, some of which were later rolled out by John Deere.
Walter was integral to the development of Highland's Silver Lake and Silver Lake Watershed Project which still manages the watershed today.
Many years ago Walter and Betty were asked to participate in a Weather Observation Station, a national research project managed by the University of Florida/Gainsville; a project which is still ongoing today.
His efforts were recognized with various awards including the 1983 Conservation Farmer of the Year for Madison County.
His most recent award was for growing the highest-protein soybean in the State of Illinois, the result of years of analyzing and nurturing the soil, and some of which he still has in a Mason jar on his desk.
Probably the highlight of his career was being asked to join the People to People Agriculture Mission to Eastern Europe, just as the Berlin Wall was going down.
Walter wrote this tribute and prayer to commemorate the trip which he called "Gateway to the West 2000:"As we left, there will soon be more bountiful prairie fields out East.
We stopped to pause, in Berlin by the broken, battered, fallen wall; looking to the West we saw the healing scars of wars gone by.
Flying from South to North we saw the gently flowing Rhine.
Looking into the Dresden horizon we saw the twinkle of many stars, and as we gazed afar from the East or from the West, we saw the same bright star they saw.
Our Father, we thank thee for having been in a Free Europe; free to be teachers and providers of those who are in need.
We ask your blessing upon this People to People group and all the other People to People groups around the world.
We ask your guidance in research, education and development of all the different phases in European agriculture, European homes and European youth who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
We hope and pray for peace and understanding throughout the Universe.
In 75 years of farming, Walter used horse drawn plows and threshing machines to tractors and combines (John Deere were his favorite) and today's GPS-guided technology.
Walter was a lifelong learner who loved to travel and try new things.
He kept up with changes at Agronomy Days, Extension meetings, and trips to the U of I, Dixon Springs Research Center.
A thoughtful steward of his land, Walter had a knack for fixing any problem through his resourcefulness and creativity.
In his later years, Walter scaled back the acreage he farmed, but kept his hand in until he retired.Walter and Betty worked as a team over decades on the farm and in life.
Walter was an inspiration to his family and friends.
He was much loved and will be greatly missed.
Survivors include his wife, Betty J. Steiner, nee Miener, Highland; daughters, Beth A. Steiner, Highland, Karen L. (David) Clausing, Charleston, Illinois, Diane L. (William E.) Branz, Edwardsville, Illinois, and Constance "Connie" J. (Todd M.) Allen, Hoover, Alabama; grandchildren, Christine M. Michels, Farmington, Minesota, Tom (Tonya) Clausing, McKinney, Texas, Katherine Clausing, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ryan Allen, Atlanta, Georgia, and Kelly Allen, Hoover, Alabama; great-grandchildren, Emma Bubendorf, Farmington, Minesota, and William Bubendorf, Farmington; a sister, Lillian (Gene) Daiber, Marine, Illinois; and a sister in-law, Dorothy Steiner, Highland.
He was preceded in death by his father, Louis G. Steiner - Died 5/22/1994; his mother, Louise E. Steiner, nee Meffert - Died 6/22/1984; an infant sister, Florence Steiner - Died 5/18/1923; a sister, Edith C. Ruehrup - Died 5/8/2020; his brother, Milton L. Steiner - Died 7/5/2008; and one brother-in-law, Elmer Ruehrup - Died 10/17/1992.
Arrangements are being handled by Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home in Highland.
Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home in Highland.
Funeral Service will be at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home in Highland, with Rev. Todd Bean officiating.
Interment will be at Highland City Cemetery in Highland.
Memorial contributions may be made to Evangelical United Church of Christ or Grantfork United Church of Christ or Donor's Choice.