Accountants have a thing for numbers, so it's not surprising Wilbert "Will" McSteen expected his children to love them, too -- even when the adding, subtracting and multiplication took place outside the classroom.
Every so often during their summer vacations, his oldest daughter, Colleen Huysman of Ross, recalled, the Internal Revenue Service employee would leave a math problem on the mantel of their Ross home before he left for work in the morning. "And then he'd check the answers when he got home," she said.
What's much more surprising about Mr. McSteen, who died June 13 at age 87 at Valley Care Masonic Center in Aleppo, is how he chose to become an accountant in the first place.
Upon arriving back in Pittsburgh with a Purple Heart after a stint in World War II in the Army, where he served as a corporal in the 409th Infantry, 103 Division, the North Side native enrolled at Duquesne University. During registration, he happened to stand in line behind a person who told the registrar he wanted to study accounting. "So Dad said that, too," said Mrs. Huysman.
It ended up being a good fit. After sailing through Duquesne's accounting program in 2 years and 8 months on the G.I. Bill, during which he worked full-time at a gas station and fell in love with the pretty Bell Telephone worker named Lorraine he'd end up marrying five months after graduation, he signed on in May 1950 with the IRS's appellate division in Pittsburgh. He'd work there his entire career, retiring with 34 years of service in 1984.
Whether it was because he was tied to a desk all day, or the fact he grew up in the city without the benefit of a big backyard, Mr. McSteen got outside every chance he could. Walking his dogs in the woods became a passion, along with tending to his garden.
He also made sure he gave back to the community. In the early '60s, he started volunteering at Dixmont State Hospital in Kilbuck, playing cards on Tuesday nights with patients and occasionally helping them with their tax returns. He'd show up every week for 15 years. He also volunteered for Meals on Wheels after he retired from the IRS, delivering meals to needy seniors in the North Hills out of the Bellevue office.
"He grew up with a special needs brother, so he had a special place in his heart for people who had issues," said his youngest son, Jeffrey McSteen of Adams.
Short and stocky as a youth, Mr. McSteen played center for the Perry High School football team in the early 1940s. At the ripe old age of 50 (for sports, anyway), he took up tennis, playing up to six days a week on public courts around the North Hills, often with his son Jeffrey on the other side of the net.
"His is the last body that was made for tennis, but he loved it," his son said, recalling how his father, like so many Americans, became infatuated with tennis superstars Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg in the '70s. "He could place that ball anywhere and run a younger guy ragged." It would take a hip replacement in his 70s to get him off the court.
He'd slowed down a bit by the time he and his wife moved to Masonic Village in 2004, but only in body, never in spirit.
"He was one of those guys who was always so comfortable in his own skin, and lived life to the fullest," said Jeffrey McSteen.
In addition to his wife of 62 years, son Jeffrey and daughter Colleen, Mr. McSteen is survived by daughters Rosanne Plagenza of Somers, Conn., and Melanie McSteen of Concord, N.H,, son Mark McSteen of Great Falls, Va., 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday at Masonic Village, 1000 Masonic Drive, Aleppo, with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. A luncheon will follow. Arrangements were made by Schellhaas Funeral Home & Cremation Service.
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com or 412-263-1419.