Edward F. Steckel was doing what he loved best on May 20 — volunteering with his wife and friends for the benefit of retired greyhound racing dogs. There was laughter and camaraderie as they loaded donated shoes into a truck because this was the most successful fundraiser local volunteers for Nittany Greyhounds had ever held.
In the past three years The Greyhound Way, sort of the western branch of Nittany Greyhounds, had collected 10,000 pairs of used shoes for Florida-based Funds2org, who will send the shoes to people in foreign countries. Funds2org paid Nittany Greyhounds $4,000 for doing the collecting.
This year greyhound volunteers collected 9,075 pairs of shoes and were paid $3,500.
“But the success is bittersweet,” Martha Steckel wrote in a recent email. “While loading the Funds2org truck with donated shoes, my husband, Ed, suffered a massive heart attack and died.”
Mr. Steckel, who lived in Shaler, was 59. He had just had a complete medical checkup two weeks earlier. His doctor said the cause of death was a “catastrophic coronary,” Mrs. Steckel said.
“We were blessed to be surrounded by friends and doing what we loved when this happened,” she said. “We will continue our shoe drive next year, March through April, in Ed’s memory.”
In their 23-year marriage,Steckels always had dogs. For the past 15 years they’ve had multiple greyhounds — 11 in all. And they’ve been very involved with rescue groups that help greyhounds.
“We always took the dogs that others were reluctant to adopt,” Mrs. Steckel said. There have been greyhounds with chronic health problems, old dogs and what rescue people call “bouncebacks” — dogs that had been adopted but were returned to the rescue group.
At the time of Mr. Steckel’s death, there were four greyhounds, all of them fawn-colored.
“When they’re in the backyard neighbors say it looks like we have a herd of deer,” Mrs. Steckel said.
Neo, 10, “is having the hardest time with Ed’s death,” she said. Neo was a bounceback because “his family had a terrible crisis. When Neo came to us a year ago, he attached himself to Ed’s hips” and never left his side.
The other dogs are Queenie and Dani, both 11, and Teddy, 5, “the only healthy greyhound we’ve ever adopted.”
“Ed was always able to leash walk all of our greyhounds at once,” Mrs. Steckel said, emailing me a picture of him doing just that. She said she doesn’t possess that skill, so she is taking multiple solo dog walks every day.
There was more to Ed Steckel’s life than greyhounds, of course. He was an engineer who designed security systems for Intertech Security for 17 years.
“People he worked with said Ed enjoyed his work, and his smile lit up the room,” Mrs. Steckel said.
He grew up in Millvale, played hockey as a child and became a huge Penguins hockey fan.
Mrs. Steckel is very comforted by the support and consolation she has received from people in all the local greyhound rescue groups. And she’s sure “Ed would be pleased that the shoe drive will continue in his name and will help spread the word about greyhound adoption.”
Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.