1945 – 2012
Kenneth Ray Steele was born March 1, 1945 in Toccoa, Georgia. Ken graduated from Stetson University in Deland, Florida with a Bachelor of Church Music degree and went on to earn his Master’s in Choral Conducting from the University of Texas in Austin.
During his 26 year teaching career he was choral director in Austin ISD at Reagan High and Anderson High. He also started the choir program at Pflugerville (TX) High School. In 2003, he retired and moved with his wife to Marlton, NJ. As a high school choir director his work was exemplary. His choirs consistently won state and national recognition for their excellence. He was in constant demand as a guest conductor and judge of choral activities, both in Texas and more recently in New Jersey.
In addition to working full time as a school choir director, he always had a part-time church job as the organist, choir director, or both. This way he was able to pursue his passions for music education as well as for leading worship to God. Some of the churches Ken served in include Crestview Baptist, Austin, Texas; First Baptist Georgetown; First Baptist Austin, University Baptist in Austin and was currently the organist/choir master at Kemble Memorial Methodist in Woodbury, NJ. Ken helped lead worship in churches for a total of 55 years.
Ken served as TCDA High School/College Vice President from 1990-1992 and served on the Eastern Division ACDA Board as Music and Worship R & S from 2006-2010.
In 1965 he married the love of his life Diane Bethea, sharing a love affair for the next 48 years. Together they had two children, Laurie Steele Lausi and Brian Kenneth Steele, both of whom he was very proud. He had 6 grandchildren to whom he was their beloved “Papa K.”
Surrounded by his family and friends, he died on July 21, 2012 only 16 days after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Ken was preceded in death by his parents, Ray and Sue Steele. He is survived by his wife Diane (Marlton, NJ), daughter Laurie, her husband Mike and their three children, Justin, Sarah and Connor (Cherry Hill, NJ) and his son Brian, his wife Renee and their three children, Tim, Ben and Katie (Lubbock, TX); two sisters, Jan Earley (Pilot Mt., NC) and Wanda Green (Atlanta, GA).
The heavenly choirs have just gained an amazing tenor section leader and assistant director. May his legacy live on in the hearts and music of all who knew him.
There will be a memorial service at University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas on September 15, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. Memorial gifts may be directed to the TCDA Scholarship Fund. This fund allows for financial aid for college students pursuing music education. It can be sent to:
Texas Choral Directors Association
7900 Centre Park Drive, Suite A, Austin TX 78754