Tom was born August 29, 1951, to John and LaVonne (Welch) Steele in Cando, ND. He was raised one of six children. Tom graduated from Cando High School in 1969 and also attended Ball Horticultural School, in Chicago, IL, graduating in 1970. On August 15, 1975, Tom was united in marriage to Victoria Ann Eggl at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Cando, ND. They are the parents of two children and two grandchildren.
Many people knew Tom as a truly exceptional horticulturist. He worked initially at Morris Floral in Cando, ND in high school, and following graduation, was a greenhouse builder and grower in Reedsburg, WI, at J.R. Johnson in Austin, MN, and ultimately for 47 years at Shotwell Floral and Greenhouse in Fargo, ND.
Tom loved his job, his numerous customers who loved him in return, and co-workers that worked side-by-side with him over the years. He was a mentor for many employees and owners of other greenhouses and floral shops; he shared his vast knowledge of horticulture and love of growing plants and flowers. He truly appreciated working with Jake and Jean Shotwell, John and Annette Shotwell, and JD and Elaine Shotwell, three generations of owners of Shotwell Floral and Greenhouses over the years.
He was widely known and admired for his growing expertise by greenhouse and floral shop owners throughout ND, and portions of SD, MN, and MT. He excelled at growing any variety of commercial greenhouse crops, tropical green plants, and many plants from seeds, cuttings, bulbs, etc. Tom worked with many youth programs, personally serving as a mentor to provide them with the opportunity to learn the greenhouse trade, including youth with special needs. Additionally, you could find Tom leading greenhouse tours, sharing knowledge with youth from pre-school through college. He mentored many young people through their formative years and was proud to learn that they had become high-level professionals, such as doctors and lawyers.
When the greenhouse became very busy during spring/summer bedding plant season, and during the Easter and Christmas seasons, Tom was known for rounding up not only his family members, but also his friends to help him during those seasons, and everyone truly enjoyed being part of the “team” he managed and mentored. He was known for resurrecting plants considered to be on their last legs. Perhaps one of Tom’s most memorable achievements in that regard, was bringing back to life a Christmas Cactus that had been in a relative’s family for over 100+ years. He truly was a gifted horticulturist.
As a loving husband, Tom supported his wife, Vicki, as she taught piano lessons for over 40 students each week in their home, helped haul band equipment and listened to the music Vicki, and her two sisters, Cynthia Eggl and Jill Eggl performed over many years as the Satin Sounds. Tom and Vicki joked about having a shirt printed with the words, “Yes, I’m Proud” that he could wear while listening to the Satin Sounds’ performances, and later, his daughters’ performances, as many people would find him and talk about his daughters, wife and sisters-in-law.
Tom was a very proud parent to his two daughters, Melissa Steele St. Michaels and Betsy Steele, attending nearly every music concert, contest, festival, audition, and performance in which they participated. He was also very supportive of his daughters as they participated in skating lessons over many years, in Fargo South High School’s Pizzazz vocal group, and the Trollwood Performing Arts School, while they were in high school.
He, along with his brothers, absolutely loved to hunt waterfowl and deer in high school and throughout his adult life. He also bowled with his brothers in men’s league, and with Vicki, in mixed league over his lifetime. He loved playing cards with his sister, brothers, and wife having completed several nights of double Pinochle just the week prior to his passing. If you ever had a math question to solve, Tom was the one to ask. He loved playing chess, checkers, and many different board games with his family. Tom was also a voracious reader, dedicated to the Western genre, and the Fargo Forum. His preference was to hold a book or the newspaper in his hands, but in later years, his Nook was always by his side.
Tom was an avid Minnesota Vikings fan, traveling to Minneapolis for home games with Vicki for many years as season ticketholders. He also never missed an NDSU Bison Football Game if it was being televised, and if not, he listened to the radio broadcast. Another love of Tom’s was watching or listening to the Minnesota Twins Baseball games. His love of baseball was passed on to his grandson, Logan St. Michaels and granddaughter, Allison St. Michaels, who both excelled at the game throughout their childhoods and through high school. If he could not be in attendance at their games, he watched them through a streaming opportunity, so they knew he was always watching.
He had a love of classic muscle cars and was a very proud owner of a restored 1970 Corvette Stingray, which he owned prior to marrying Vicki. He went so far as to use the money he had saved for new headers to purchase her engagement ring. Tom and his siblings were car aficionados. Many of the summer gatherings were held at the St. Paul Fairgrounds during the annual MSRA Back to the Fifties Car Show.
Over the past 14+ months, Tom endured many grueling health ordeals. He fought back and defied the odds through his strong faith, sheer will, guts, determination, courage and more times than not, a sense of humor, all so he could live his life with quality, and more importantly, love for his family and friends. He was an inspiration to many people around him, having changed some of his physicians’ opinions about their long-held medical beliefs on how a patient can recover from significant health challenges.
Tom had faith in God, a devoted wife by his side who never hesitated to research and then ask the tough medical questions, his daughters, grandchildren, brothers, sister, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, co-workers and friends who all cheered him on during his recuperation. When he coupled all that with dogged determination, his ability to overcome and fight back far surpassed what many physicians thought was possible. Tom’s plans were to work especially hard at rehabilitation over the winter months, so he could reach his goal of preparation for the 2022 growing season at the greenhouse. He truly loved his work.
Tom was loving, kind, compassionate, stable, encouraging, generous, and always there if you needed help. He was a “rock” for his family. He will be missed so very much in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
Tom is survived by his wife, Victoria (Eggl) Steele, his daughters, Melissa Steele St. Michaels of Jordan, MN, and Betsy Steele of Forest Lake, MN, his grandson, Logan St. Michaels of Fargo, ND, his granddaughter, Allison St. Michaels of Jordan, MN, sister, Sandra Geiger (late Phil Geiger) of Cando, ND, brothers John (Trudy) Steele of Sun City, TX, Bill of Cando, ND, Terry of Clyde, TX, and David of Fargo, ND, sisters-in-law Cynthia Eggl and Jill Eggl of Fargo, ND, brothers-in-law Scott (Kathy) Eggl of Cando, ND and Mark (Carla Ann) Eggl of Greenville, SC, and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, John and LaVonne Steele, parents-in-law, Frederick and Janet Eggl, and brother-in-law, Frederick B. Eggl.
Memorials are preferred to the Impact-Cando Connection Fund or Elks Camp Grassick.