By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Moments in Time: Marlea Steiner
Marlea Steiner (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
BLANCHARDVILLE - Positivity has led the way for Marlea Steiner throughout her life. And not just in state of mind, but in her actions. She has a fearless desire to be actively involved in everything that surrounds her, and the Monroe native, now living in rural Blanchardville, still finds herself at the helm of many special projects and organizations that have captured her attention for decades.

She was born and raised in Monroe, the oldest of two younger sisters; she had a brother who died in infancy. Her family farmed west of Monroe at a few different locations, she said. It was a traditional farm with cows, hogs and chickens along with berry patches, orchards, big gardens and crops.

Because her father farmed with his two younger brothers, Steiner said she mostly helped her mother until they moved to a smaller farm later on. There, she recalls helping out more often.

She was involved in 4-H and stayed active through high school and beyond. She loved the demonstrations and worked often with her cousin Ruth Schuetz and said it might have been the precursor into her eventual teaching career.

Throughout her 4-H years, she took part in everything from music to horses and offered projects in sewing, cooking, home furnishings, leather crafts and more, earning several awards. Her mother, the club leader, was supportive and encouraging, Steiner said. Later on, Steiner became a leader and served as a knitting/crocheting superintendent.

Steiner attended Roosevelt School on Bethel Road, but after it went down with the tornado in 1965, she was bused to Hiawatha School from third through eighth grade. She attended ninth grade in Monroe at the old Lincoln School, but the new high school was soon built, and she recalls helping move items to the new building. Hers was the first full-year class to graduate at the new school.

High school didn't offer many athletic programs for girls at that time, but Steiner enjoyed taking part in the Girls Athletic Association, where they would practice in physical education and compete at other schools a few times each year in different sports. She also enjoyed other clubs and organizations, especially the school newspaper and yearbook.

She also worked part time at the Zesto, a local ice cream stand. She worked there even through college, coming home to work on weekends and in the summer months.

The 1960 Monroe High School graduate planned to find work; she had taken several business classes and enjoyed them. However, a friend attending college encouraged her to further her education. She enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Because she enrolled late, Steiner was unable to secure student housing. She said it was a "godsend," because she instead lived in a private home with a family who became like grandparents to her. She is still close with their family.

Steiner worked as a secretary for a professor and earned her degree in business education with a minor in physical education in 31/2 years. She had a taste of teaching in 4-H and Sunday school and then at Whitewater by tutoring veterans in accounting classes.

She looked close to home for a teaching job, but the closest was a middle school and high school business teacher position in Waupun.

It was a job she treasured immediately.

"I loved teaching," she said.

Marriage plans were in Steiner's near future, and her first husband couldn't find work near Waupun so she didn't stay long, taking a position in Brodhead instead. Although she enjoyed the work, she disliked the commute and after a year, took an opening at Monroe High School in 1965 teaching business classes.

"I taught everything in business you could think of," she said.

In her early teaching years, Steiner also taught physical education classes and when a unit came up on curling, she was forced to do her homework. She joined the Alpine Curling Club, taking lessons and then eventually becoming part of the women's league and couple's league. She even took her high school classes to the annual bonspiels.

"They knew more than I did in the beginning," she laughed.

She also began teaching evening classes at Blackhawk Technical College and realized how much she enjoyed helping adults get back into the workforce.

Steiner was the junior class adviser for several years and was part of selecting the Badger Boys and Badger Girls State representatives. She helped with magazine fundraisers and spent more than 35 years planning junior proms. She recalls taking students to see bands and orchestras to help choose their prom entertainment before they started to hire disc jockeys. She also sold tickets at football and basketball tournaments, enjoying the chance to meet so many people. She often worked with seniors as well and said it was a special time when she could help them with the cooperative program, placing them in jobs.

Steiner was part of starting the Future Business Leaders of America at Monroe and has been to several regional and state competitions, including a national competition in Orlando.

Before she retired in 1999, she was the chair of the business department. Steiner was divorced at that time and purchased a home that required some fixing up. She said she decided to take on another career to help fund her new venture and began working at Electronic Data Systems in Madison. She was the secretary for the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, working on contracts for low-income women and helping behind the scenes.

She worked there until 2008 when she married her husband, Randy, who she then helped occasionally at his bait shop.

Through the years, Steiner taught Sunday school, usually for elementary-aged students, but said her love was always to teach older students.

"They're so wiggly," she laughed about her much younger Sunday school students. "I wasn't used to that."

Steiner has also helped usher and serve communion at her church and at St. Clare Friedenshiem Assisted Living.

Community involvement has always been a part of Steiner's life. When she first moved to Monroe, she joined the Women of the Moose. She served in almost every capacity, including as president, over the 50 years she has been with the group. She earned the Friendship Degree and was inducted into the College of Regents.

She joined the Monroe Jaycettes around the same time and was part of an early style show fundraiser where she modeled for the group. She has also served in various positions there, including president. After being nominated by people in Monroe, she was presented the Elsie Dagget award, the highest award a Jaycette could achieve, through the state organization.

She was invited to join the Alpha Delta Kappa group, an international honorary organization for women educators. Steiner held most chair and officer positions for Omicron, the Monroe chapter. She has held state positions several times in the roles of secretary, president and many others. She attended North Central conferences and is a Regioneer, meaning she's attended five or more of them. She has also attended international conventions almost as many times. She's currently active on the state level and serves as secretary. When her term ends in May, she plans to try the treasurer position for a new challenge.

She is actively involved in the Monroe Woman's Club, where she has been a member for almost 50 years and serves as the group's president. She's held several roles with the group and is also part of the Southern Prairies District for GFWC Woman's Clubs, serving as their secretary. She said she feels lucky to have had such wonderful opportunities to travel with these organizations, attending several state conferences, workshops and conventions.

While teaching, Steiner was involved in a number of professional organizations. She served as the secretary of Southern Wisconsin Education In-Service Organization for several years; was secretary of Capital Area Uniserv South for several years; served as the Wisconsin Education Association delegate to state conventions and as a committee member; held several positions in the National Education Association, including president; served on various committees and in several roles, including president, for the Monroe Education Association; and was a charter member of Delta Pi Epsilon Professional Business Graduate Organization at UW-Whitewater. She is now a member of the Green County Retired Educators and Wisconsin Retirees Education Association.

One of her most special events to attend are her former students' class reunions.

"It's gratifying to see the things they learned in my classes," she said. "Certain ones invite you over and over."

Steiner has enjoyed the travel and experiences that have gone hand in hand with her extensive involvement. She said for some reason, being involved has always felt natural and because she was fortunate enough to be educated with some helpful skills, she always felt the need to share them with the groups doing such important work.

"I think I have a pretty positive attitude and I hope I've been able to help a lot of people over the years," she said. "It wasn't frightening to me like it is for some people. I like stepping up - I was blessed to be trained for it."

Her heavy involvement likely stems from her mother, Edna Schuetz, she said, who was also active in the community. Her mother lived to be 106, and in Schuetz's last years, Steiner was a big part of her care and spending time with her. Steiner also enjoys spending time with her daughter, Reagon Leopold, who lives and works nearby. She and Randy have been married 10 years and have a cat named Mittens.

In her free time, Steiner enjoys playing cards with her mother's card group and with a group at Aster. She also plays in her own card club, which she's been a part of for more than 50 years, and takes part in a card fundraiser for Monroe Clinic.

Steiner enjoys reading, knitting, crafting and walks almost every day. She and her husband enjoy gardening, freezing and canning the harvest. She said she lives by the mantra of staying positive and has almost always been a person who has focused on moving forward, despite any negativity that's come her way.

"Why things happen is immaterial," Steiner said. "You just have to move forward. I think that's how I've been in life, in teaching and in the organizations. I just try to be positive."