ANSON – When Schuyler Steele got interested in a subject, he exhausted it.

If Gen. George Armstrong Custer hit his radar, he’d read book after book on him. Or he’d go through everything on the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich.

Or you could find him with a comic book in his hands, or a treatise by St. Thomas Aquinas, or a novel by Dean Koontz.

It was rare to see him without a book, said his wife of 21 years, Joan Steele.

“His intellectual curiosity just consumed everything,” she said. “He was extremely intelligent.”

Mr. Steele died Monday at the age of 51 after a year-and-a-half fight with colon cancer. He was a well-known attorney in the state, practicing law out of a refurbished refrigerator boxcar on Route 100 in Palmyra.

He had a ready, dry sense of humor, Joan Steele said. There was an outfit he would wear around the house, she said: cutoff shorts, a tank top and an old sombrero.

Her sister saw him in it once and told him the outfit lowered his IQ by 20 points.

He shot back, “I can afford it.”

They balanced each other, said Joan Steele.

She has a short temper. He was unflappable.

She’s an “old Puritan — fun comes after work.” He insisted that they go out and have fun.

Fun ranged from going to book sales to sitting out in the front yard, smoking a cigar and enjoying the scenery — a favorite spot he called the “Flamingo Lounge.”

As he got sick, she talked to him about how boring life would be without him, how she would tend to stay home.

“Don’t let yourself get in a rut,” he told her.

He loved being an attorney, Joan Steele said.

“If he could be in court all day, every day, that would be great,” she said.

He was game to try any argument a client wanted to present, and he was very, very focused in court.

While he was sick, his friends in the court system were “just wonderful,” she said, helping him with cases, arranging schedules around his illness.

He started his law career in Portland, working for Lowry and Platt and later Brown and Steele. The Steeles moved later to Palmyra, and he began to look for a place to practice law.

They spotted an old Bangor & Aroostook boxcar in Uncle Henry’s magazine and considered it. His former partner in Portland, Ralph Brown, had been a train enthusiast.

They bought the boxcar and hired a man who had retired from the railroad to lay down a short length of track on Route 100 to set it up. They refurbished it, had it wired and that’s where he hung his shingle.

Joan Steele said she isn’t sure what she will do with the boxcar now. She’s thinking of trying to make it into a library.

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]