EUGENE "GENE" ROLAND STEFFES was born to William and Pauline (Krogman) Steffes on October 26, 1936 in Iona, MN. Gene began his schooling at St. Columba Catholic School and enjoyed watching the baseball games at the Iona ballfield. The family moved to Lake Wilson in the late 1940s when Gene’s father, a livestock buyer, purchased the livestock station. In Lake Wilson, Gene made many friends, enjoyed riding horses with Lake Wilson’s Saddle Club, and worked with his dad and brother Don at Steffes Livestock. Gene graduated from Lake Wilson High School in 1955 earning the honor of “Class Clown.”
That same year, Gene enlisted in the U.S. Navy and completed basic training in San Diego, CA. Gene absolutely loved the Navy calling them some of the “best years” of his life. He served as a Second Class Petty Officer working as a Disbursing (Payroll) Clerk and was honorably discharged in October 1959. Gene was stationed at Barber Point Naval Station in Hawaii and also in Guam. He traveled the South Pacific including the Philippines and Japan on his beloved oiler, the U.S.S. Guadalupe AO-32 which he described as “a floating gas station for the ‘big boys’ out there on the ocean.” When the ship was docked, Gene toured all over Hawaii and the South Pacific with his Navy buddies, riding horses, visiting temples, taking lots of meticulously labeled photographs, swimming in the Pacific Ocean, collecting sea shells, hiking through the jungle, and even hula dancing in grass skirts with his fellow shipmates. He loved his country and was incredibly grateful for his naval service and the opportunities it provided him.
Upon leaving the U.S. Navy, Gene accepted a job with Wilson & Co. and Armour & Co. as a Hog Buyer. He met Kay Priebe at the famous Hollyhock Ballroom in Hatfield, MN. They married on August, 7, 1961 at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Slayton, MN. The newlyweds lived in Waverly, IA until Gene was able to transfer to a livestock station in Pipestone, MN where he lived out his life.
Pipestone was near and dear to Gene’s heart. All of his four children (Mark, Paulette, Mike, and Tom) were born and raised in Pipestone. Gene began as a Route Driver and Salesman at Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Pipestone in 1962. He drove the Pepsi truck and then the Pabst Blue Ribbon truck until 1983 when the beer distribution was purchased by Holinka Distributing in Fulda, MN. Gene and his family resided in Pipestone, but Gene commuted to Fulda early Monday mornings and returned home on Friday evenings. He loved his customers on his routes which covered territories from Brookings, SD to Fairmont, MN. Gene considered all of them friends and was known and liked by many as the “Beer Man.” He was a fiercely loyal employee and only Pepsi, Pabst, and Miller products were allowed in the Steffes’ household.
In 1998, Gene retired from route driving and sales. However, if you knew Gene, you know he couldn’t sit still. Gene’s lifelong desire to be productive and useful kept him from slowing down. So, in actuality, he ended up working over 50 hours per week at his post-retirement jobs. Those included Taxi Bus Driver at Pipestone County Transit; Stocker/Bagger at Hank’s Foods; Newspaper Carrier for Pipestone County Star/Free Star and the Worthington Daily Globe; and School Crossing Guard at the St. Leo’s Corner for Pipestone Area Schools. In 2015, Gene finally retired from his last job due to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Gene was a proud member of the American Legion Post #6 in Pipestone, the Pipestone HRA Board, the Pipestone Senior Center, St. Leo’s Catholic Church, and the Knights of Columbus --- winning Knight of the Year in 2000. Gene gained friendship, happiness, and purpose through volunteering and serving others. In addition to formal volunteering, he was a devoted caregiver for his beloved brother Don for years. Some of his favorite activities at St Leo’s Church were ushering, serving as KC treasurer, washing dishes, serving at the Fish Fry, working the Fair Stand, and mowing the cemetery with his fellow Knights of Columbus. Other favorite volunteer activities included delivering Meals on Wheels to fellow seniors, assisting with the Avenues of Flags for the Legion, and helping every person he thought could use a helping hand. All of these jobs --- paid or volunteer --- brought him a great sense of fulfillment.
Gene was very proud of his family and worked hard to provide for them. Over the years, he enjoyed time with his wife and children while celebrating their successes. He loved Country Western music, horse riding, going for drives, drinking coffee, and walking – sometimes clicking 10,000 – 20,000 steps a day even into his last year of life. In contrast to his nickname “Mean Gene,” he was a kind, funny, generous, humble, grateful, people-loving, and genuinely happy person. He remained that way to the very last day, when he passed away at Good Samaritan Communities of Pipestone on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at the age of 86 years, 1 month and 18 days after a valiant battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Gene is lovingly remembered by his four children: Mark (Lela) Steffes of Sioux Falls, SD, Paulette (Dave) Sarp of Edina, MN, Mike (Patricia) Steffes of Rochester, MN, and Tom (Erica Volkir) Steffes of Pipestone, MN; his five grandchildren, Elizabeth Steffes, Michael Sarp, Rebecca Steffes, Jason Sarp, and Briana Steffes; his sister-in-law, Janet DeGreeff; his four nieces and nephews and their families, Lisa (Dave) Cuperus, Randy (Becky) DeGreeff, Danny “Bubba” DeGreeff, and Stacy Kathman; his extended Steffes family in North Dakota; Lela Steffes’ four children Gage, Calisa, Torin, and Harley Squires; and many friends. He was preceded in death by his wife Kay; parents William and Pauline; brother Donald Steffes; parents-in-law Darel and Emma Priebe; brother-in-law Arnold DeGreeff; nephew-in-law Dan Kathman; and many friends.