STEINHILBER, Horst Theodore
1936 - 2021
It is with sadness and loss that the family of Horst Theodore Steinhilber announce his peacefully passing at his beloved farm, surrounded by his family on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at the age of 84 years.
Horst will be lovingly remembered by his wife, partner and best friend, Elvira; his children, Mike (Lynn), Michelle and Tanya (Matthew) Price; his nine grandchildren; his brother, Harry (Gertrude) Steinhilber; his sister Monica (Al) Becker as well as numerous other relatives and many friends.
A Private Family Graveside Service will be held on Monday, February 1, 2021 at the Bentley Cemetery.
The Graveside Service may be viewed on this site in the evening.
Horst, our dear Dad, husband, Opa, brother, and friend, was born in Modlischewo, Poland, and lived there until he was 8 years old. As World War Two raged, his family went through many hardships, close calls, and long separations. Sometimes he would hide with his brother and sister in hay bales, and listen as bullets whizzed past them. Dad's family eventually fled Poland for the safety of their homeland, Germany, and after a perilous journey, the family began post war life there.
In 1952, when Dad was 16, a vast country full of opportunity lay before him as his family immigrated to Canada. Dad worked with the family in the sugar beet fields near Picture Butte, Alberta, and later settled in Calgary. He always told us that as soon as they arrived in Canada, his plans were to save up just enough money to get back to Germany. But as time went on, Canada became his beloved home.
When he was 18, our adventurous father got in a car with his buddies and moved to Hamilton, Ontario for 3 years. There he got a job in a cardboard box factory. His drive and determination caused him to seek out night classes, and the courses he took set him up for his education in design when he later returned to Calgary.
Not long after his return, he met and married the love of his life, Elvira Serr, in 1960, who became our mom. She remained the apple of his eye and the joy of his life for over 60 years. Dad never stopped telling Mom how beautiful she was, using terms like “my chicky”, and “my one and only”, and leaving notes for Mom that began with “Hi Sweetie” and signed off with hearts. In fact, the day after Dad passed, Mom found one of Dad’s notes tucked in the back of a book she had been reading. It was signed, “See you soon.”
Mom and Dad affectionately referred to one another as “Dear” all their lives. The love between them was so evident right up to Dad’s final hours, and the comfort Mom gave as she tended to him, will remain a treasured memory for us kids forever.
After his education in Architectural Design at what was then TECH in Calgary, Dad very quickly became employed by Engineered Homes. In 1964, the company wanted him to go to Wales to expand their design department. So Mom and Dad set off across the sea on a great adventure. There, in 1965, their first child arrived, Michael. After a year and a half in Wales, the family of three moved back to Calgary, Dad with a new position in the company. Mom had long given Dad the moniker, “German Genius”, and Dad’s company must have agreed, as they gave him the position of Chief Designer and Head of the Design Department at Engineered Homes. In 1967, Michele was born. Michael and I (Michele) enjoyed going to the office on some Saturdays; we would ride the wheeled office chairs past rows of drawing boards while Dad worked in his office. We were so proud of him.
Dad also had a creative interest in photography and film-making. A representative from a travel company had seen some clips of Dad’s films, and the travel company promptly paid for a plane ticket to get Dad to Europe so he could make a travelogue. So Dad and his brother, our Uncle Harry, hopped aboard a plane and toured Europe, a trip that included lots of movie making, I’m sure, but also a broken car window--which the brothers found after swimming in the Mediterranean Sea--and further, the realization that Uncle Harry’s pants and traveller’s cheques had been stolen. Uncle Harry joked that he was pantless and penniless for a while until it all got sorted out.
The creation of the travelogues continued with other trips to Europe accompanied by Mom, some of her siblings, and Dad’s sister, Monica. Mom remembers driving for hours one evening, lost in Rome, after a day of sightseeing and film making, trying to find their way to their campsite. Other memories of these trips were shared fondly by Uncle Harry and Tante Monica during their last visit with Dad, just a day before he passed away.
And so, 10,000 Miles Through Europe and Discovering the Mediterranean were born--movies Dad actually edited by hand by splicing parts of film together. Auditoriums full of people came to see these movies, and, no doubt, were entertained and increasingly inspired to travel.
Dad’s creativity seemed to know no bounds, as, one day, he and Mom’s brother, our Uncle Jake, decided to build a sailboat. They got the plans from the Y-Flyer association they were members of, and set out to build it in Uncle Jake's basement. Uncle Jake remembers that Dad, always a perfectionist, took care to cut out some proper templates out of heavy paper for the ribs of the boat before they cut them out of plywood. When the Y-Flyer association came by to approve and certify the boat, they were so impressed with the perfect shape of the ribs that they asked Dad for his templates to use in other builds.
After they moved the finished boat outside (which included taking out Uncle Jake's living room window), they set sail on the waters. Both our families enjoyed this boat, but many times Dad and Uncle Jake entered races. One particular time, as they were skimming across the lake in an effort to be fastest, Dad needed to sit on the edge and lean out off the side of the boat. He was supposed to slip his feet under a strap to secure himself. He missed the strap. Uncle Jake said all he saw was the bottom of Dad’s shoes as he went backwards overboard. And he wondered how he would turn the boat around by himself in that wind to pick Dad up, when he heard Dad say, “Keep going!” As Dad had somersaulted over the edge, he had grabbed the rope attached to the boat and was able to pull himself up, hand over hand, back to the boat where Uncle Jake helped him up. They won the race.
As years went by, Dad’s interests turned to boats with motors, and he came to enjoy water skiing. We spent many hours enjoying the lake, and Dad was a skier, coach, and driver. Opa became the biggest fan of the family who ended up skiing competitively, There were many summer mornings that he would meet me (Michael) at the lake, and we’d each pull each other skiing, and then we’d go for breakfast and a business meeting afterwards. Dad water skied into his late 70s.
The happy times continued with family vacations, both winter and summer--Hawaii, Kelowna, and even a fishing trip in Northern Manitoba. We spent many beautiful weekends at our family cabin on Sylvan Lake.
In 1977 came Mom and Dad’s third child, Tanya. Soon after Tanya arrived, Dad’s dream came true--we moved out of the city to the Farm...our Green Acres, or Deer Run Acres, or Paradise, as Dad liked to think of it. He enjoyed farming while it lasted, and Tanya remembers sitting up in the tractor with him for hours as Dad cultivated the fields. Dad couldn’t have been happier on the farm, and even when farming and house designing didn’t prove to mix well, he had no desire to leave.
So from his happy place, he continued to design and build houses, and he became one of the longest running and most well-respected home builders in Central Alberta--Deer Run Homes. It’s a comfort to us, and source of pride, that everywhere we look in towns and cities across this province as well as in the countryside, Dad’s handiwork is evident. Dad certainly was the “German Genius”, and was given many design awards by the industry. His influence on the creation of housing developments is far reaching. The city of Red Deer, for example, took his advice about garage placement in a subdivision, and has made it their rule ever since.
Dad had an eye for beauty, and one of his sayings about house design was “it still costs money to build a box.” His customers and his family, who are all fortunate to live or have lived in one of his designs, are more than lucky to have had a designer with this motto.
After my (Michael) university graduation, I came to work with Dad, and we enjoyed an amazing working and father-son relationship. It was the honour and pleasure of my life to work with Dad. In 35 years, there was not one unkind or angry word spoken between us, and we hardly, if ever, even had a disagreement. We would talk on the phone several times a day, or more when we were busy, and I’ve already realized what an enormous hole in my life there is without that communication with Dad.
In all those years of business, I can say with confidence that Dad was an incredible man of integrity. Dad did his job with excellence, as Dad knew no other way, and he treated his workers with dignity, and gained their respect and that of the entire industry. Dad enjoyed the relationship he had with his trades and those he worked closely with. My cell phone has been flooded with calls and emails by members of the housebuilding community, sharing their grief in the loss of our Dad.
Dad just had a special way about him. Outside of his talent and achievements, he was just such a likeable guy. Tanya has always been struck by the impact he could have on others--some older as well as much younger than him--without even being intentional about it. He was able to just be. People were drawn to that, and they flourished under his inadvertent mentorship.
Dad’s family was the pride of his life, and as it grew with the addition of his kids and their spouses and eventually his treasured nine grandchildren, this became even more evident.
Dad just wanted us around. Being in each other’s company was the best gift. He loved nothing more than having his kids and grandkids with him--at a restaurant after church, on a holiday, and especially at home on the farm. Every time I (Tanya) had to head back to B.C., he’d reluctantly release me with “All I can say is phone us.” Even during our last week with him, he’d ask Michele his usual question of her--if she was staying over. And when she answered yes, he always looked relieved. The greatest gift we could give Dad was just to be close to him. What Michael and Michele got to experience in childhood with Dad (in terms of adventure, like camping and skiing), I maybe benefited in a different way. I got a Dad who had a flexible work schedule, who was always home when I was home. He often took me to school, sending me off with, “have a smurfy day!” And he and Mom would pick me up and we’d have fries and gravy at the Bentley Dairy Bar (most days of the week)!
Earlier this week, Michele described Dad’s love as simple but extravagant, and I couldn’t agree more. Simple because it was just Dad living out his life--not trying to be something he wasn’t. Extravagant because it really was over the top. Dad was my number one supporter in the DRIME ministry. Besides literally keeping us funded during various seasons, he and Mom often loaded up their vehicle with Costco food, and would drive across the mountains to Langley where they’d provide our team with meals for a week before a mission trip. Often teams came out to the farm to stay while enroute to a mission location.
As a teenager, I remember Dad driving my friends and me, to not only one WhiteHeart concert, but three back to back concerts in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge! He flew our entire family to Maui for my wedding (plus sent Michael, Michele and me a few months earlier to check the place out), and then 5 years later for Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary celebration. When I was 12 years old, Dad thought he might sell the farm, and when I heard he had listed it, I ran to my bedroom and burst into tears. He promptly removed the listing and promised we’d never sell the farm!
I think Dad would have done anything for us, and if he could have given us the world, he would have, and he did in every way within his reach. He was an exceedingly generous man, and so many people were recipients of it.
Another example of Dad’s generosity is when he and Mom bought a condo in Palm Springs. We’ve had so many wonderful family memories in this beautiful place. And a great many people outside the family as well have been recipients of a restful and sunny week or two because Dad offered the condo for them to stay in. Dad, I hope you know how many people appreciate you.
Dad loved to golf. Friendships were forged on the golf course, and many golfing traditions were enjoyed within the family. They treasure the time, and remember that if Dad or Opa came up short on a putt, he’d often say, “you gotta hit it, Horst!” The perfection he was used to in his artistic life often eluded him on the golf course.
Dad was a music lover. He spent 50 years of his life directing choirs--16 at Temple Baptist in Calgary, and 35 at Bethany Baptist, Mom and Dad’s home church in Red Deer. He was also asked many times to direct the German Christmas Choir for the concerts at the Jubilee Auditorium. Choir was a bright spot in his life. Each year we would enjoy Easter and Christmas cantatas that he and the choir worked so hard on, and in June, the choir would come out to the farm for the annual Choir Barbecue. Dad was a committed church member, and his talent and service is sure to be missed.
Dad’s musical interests also included playing the harmonica from time to time, often with Uncle Harry. I even saw him play the accordion once or twice. But mostly, he loved to sing. Besides choir, he and Mom were in a quartet together and later Dad sang with a male quartet and ensemble. Dad almost always had either choir or classical music playing in his home office or his car, and if he was really feeling the music, his hands would be directing, as he would with a choir.
The people in Dad’s life meant so much to him. He was so kind and polite to the nurses that tended to him and always thanked them for coming, even though we knew he’d rather not have them be there. His church community, his work community, his golf community, and his family were treasures to him, and we thank all of you for being in his life.
Our dear Dad was a man of faith. He was a teenager still living in Germany when he accepted Christ into his life and was baptized. He rested in the assurance of his salvation. On occasion, in Palm Springs, I would see him out on the patio in the mornings, eyes closed, hands folded, lips moving, and I knew he was praying. Thanks for the example you left, Dad.
Some people don’t like thinking about God as a Father because it’s too painful. They don’t have a good example of an earthly father--they only knew someone who was domineering, unkind, or neglectful. I’ve (Tanya) never had that problem. I’ve always been able to listen to a sermon about God as my heavenly Father and understand it...and I think it’s largely because I was lucky enough to get such a good dad--the best one a girl could ask for.
I (Tanya) have always called Dad, “Vati”, because that’s who he was to me, my daddy. Yes, he was respected and admired in the business world--the trades and customers loved him! And he was the beloved church choir director for decades. And he definitely made Matthew shake in his boots when he asked if he could marry me. Dad commanded respect. But to me he was my Daddy, my Vati--my Vati who would do anything for us. And he showed us kids what the love of our heavenly Father looks like--authentic, generous, extravagant.
We are so grateful to God for many things at the end of Dad’s earthly life. One, that we were able to have him home in the place he had loved for 43 years. In his last days, he had the pleasure of looking through the big east window and seeing for miles as he loved to do. He got to be with his family, and we got to be with him. We thank the Lord that He gave us the privilege of looking after Dad for the days he was home. And we are ever thankful that we were able to surround our Dad with our love and gratitude as he took the hand of Jesus. Through our grief and sorrow, we are comforted that Dad is released to be with the Lord whom he worshiped all his life, and to be able to see Him face to face in a Paradise beyond any on this Earth.
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