Franklin "Frank" M. Steele, 78, of Yakima, Wash., passed away peacefully on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, from Lewy body dementia. Some know him as Frank, Stubby, Mr. Steele, or Coach. He was born in Chehalis, Wash., to Robert and Mary Steele, Dec. 18, 1942, and raised on a farm in Onalaska, Wash. Most of his childhood was spent on the family farm or working in the woods for his dad’s logging company. Frank was a three sport letterman and standout athlete in football, baseball, and basketball at Onalaska High School, graduating in 1962.
Frank spent a year after graduation to attain his barber license and cut hair at the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. After a year of cutting hair, Frank went on to play football for the legendary coach, Jack Elway, at Gray’s Harbor Community College. Central Washington University was his next stop for collegiate athletics. Frank played two more years of football under Tom Parry who had an enormous influence over his coaching and educational journey. Frank graduated from Central with a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in physical education.
It was at this point that Frank found his true calling in life, working with and inspiring young adults in high schools across Washington State. Frank made teaching/coaching stops at Hoquiam and Highland High Schools before settling in at Toppenish High School. It was at TopHi where he was an integral part of Bob Winter’s football coaching staff for over a decade, culminating with a state championship in 1989. At the same time, Frank built, from the ground up, a state recognized powerlifting program having numerous state champions, most notably, Sophia "Sophie" Trevino who became a National Powerlifting Champion. The program’s success, eventually, led to Frank being sought after to speak at national conferences throughout the United States. But more importantly, the years at TopHi allowed Frank to inspire and touch the lives of many young adults who remember the stories of Coach Steele to this day. Frank will always be a Toppenish Wildcat and wear the gray and maroon with TopHi pride.
Frank concluded his coaching and educational career sporting orange and black at Davis High School where he brought with him the same passion, tenacity, determination, grit, and love for young people that he had at Toppenish High School. He coached football and built Davis’ powerlifting program into the same power house that he left at TopHi. The metal patch weight room inspired many Davis Pirates. Earning a metal patch t-shirt can be found throughout the valley, just ask a graduate from TopHi or Davis from the 1980’s through the early 2000’s; they’re worn with pride knowing Coach Steele made them work hard to earn it!
When Frank wasn’t in a gym or football field, you could find him spending his summers coaching at TBI or Stottlemyre’s Baseball camps or he was in the woods logging. There was never a day off for Frank, he worked hard and played even harder! It was during these summers that Frank developed his passion for fishing. Frank hung up his coaching shoes, retired from teaching, and picked up a fishing pole that never was far from his grasp. He loved fishing because he could take his family, friends, and old coaching buddies out to Ilwaco, on the Columbia River, or wherever the fish were biting in Washington State. The truck, boat, and trailer were always hooked up and ready to roll out to his next destination. The stories and pictures that came from Frank’s years fishing filled his cup. He absolutely loved fishing! He also had a wild sense of humor, making those around him laugh until their stomachs hurt. Many of his stories (and there were many) would have you laughing to tears!
Throughout all of this, Frank’s number one priority was his family. Frank and Susan met in high school and later married in July of 1967, and were married 54 marvelous years! Before having children, the two were adventurous and traveled either backpacking in Europe, camping in the woods, or riding motorcycles/dirt bikes with friends. Eventually, Frank and Susan put roots down in the country, out on west Ahtanum Road (West Valley) and together they raised three children, Trent, Tori, and Timi. Frank’s oldest son, James "Jimmy" was an integral part of his life as well. Frank was an exemplary Dad, as he was always supportive and loving. He was incredibly close with his kids and always their biggest fan. As they needed his advice or creative words of wisdom, he did so in a firm, gentle, and loving manner as they followed their dreams. Frank was an incredible role model to many throughout his life, but the ones who admired him the most shared his DNA. Being a Papa was the highlight of his life. Frank adored his grandkids and spent countless hours making memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it was something as simple as taking them swimming in his backyard, changing irrigation pipe, spending time in the shop, or helping with the cattle, life was good with Papa! He made the most out of every minute with his grandkids and taught them how to work hard, be mentally and physically tough, but most importantly be a good person who loves others. They all have incredible memories fishing, camping, going to Willy D’s, and just hanging with their Papa-he really was the BEST PAPA EVER! Frank loved them dearly and their love for him is unmatched! Peace and hay bales, Papa...
Frank was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Mary Steele; and his sister, Bobbi Perkins. He is survived by his wife, Susan; four children, James Scott, Trent (Cherie) Steele, Tori (Kevin) Brennan, and Timi (Lincoln) Nugent; and grandchildren, Riley, Sy, Tai Lyn, Marli, Seri, Jett, Carli, and Chase.
The family would like to thank Highgate Senior Living for the last five years of unwavering love, patience, and care that was given to our Dad. We can never thank Highgate enough for all that was done to make our Dad’s last years content. Also, the family is grateful to Memorial Hospice for their compassionate care in the last year. Thank you for your transparency, guidance, love, and understanding. Most importantly, the family would like to recognize George Benedetti and Sophia Trevino for their compassion, love, and support as our Dad declined in his health. We know it wasn’t easy to visit and for that, we will always be grateful to each of you!
Frank left a lasting legacy and made a positive impact on this world and so many lives. He will be greatly missed by many. There will be a private family burial. A celebration of life will be held this summer where many can gather, reminisce, tell stories, and laugh about Coach Steele, Frank, Stubby, Mr. Steele, or whatever endearing name you had for him. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the booster clubs at Toppenish High School or Davis High School in honor of Coach Frank Steele.