John A. Steele, 52, mechanic for Public Works Department

January 19, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

John Alexander Steele, a mechanic for the Baltimore Department of Public Works who could fix a fire engine on the spot, died of a heart attack Thursday at Harbor Hospital Center. He was 52.

A lifelong resident of Cherry Hill in South Baltimore, Mr. Steele was a graduate of Southern High School and Lincoln Technical Institute in Columbia, and earned additional certificates at several training programs in the mid-Atlantic area.

He worked as a mechanic at two service stations in the city before he joined the Public Works Department 17 years ago as a mechanic and tow-truck operator. He worked first at the Central Garage, then at the Front Street yard.

"He did everything," said Mayetta Ballard, a sister. "He fixed the tow trucks, the police cars, the ambulances. He fixed the snowplows -- and then drove them, if they needed him to."

"They would request him by name," said his wife of 32 years, LaVerne Steele. "With his special skills, he was able to fix them on the spot where they broke down. It prevented them from having to unload all that water off the fire engines."

A co-worker at the yard, Phillip Goodman, praised Mr. Steele's abilities as a mechanic and as a friend and family man. "He was a guy you could talk to. He understood you, and he was a very family-oriented man," he said.

Mrs. Steele said her husband also fixed appliances and automobiles for neighbors. "If you brought it to him, he would fix it. And if he saw something -- anything he could salvage -- he'd bring it home and fix it," she said.

Mr. Steele also was an outdoorsman and enjoyed fishing, hunting and archery.

Funeral services will be at 10: 30 a.m. today at Hemingway Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2701 Woodbine Road in Cherry Hill.

Other survivors include a daughter, Danielle Steele; his mother, Laura Steele; five sisters, Catherine Martin, Arigesta Harris, Laura Steele, Yvonne Thomas and Argie Sarvis; and two brothers, Theodore Steele and David Steele, all of Baltimore. A son, John Alexander Steele III, died in 1988, and a brother, Eugene Steele, was killed by lightning in 1994.

Pub Date: 1/19/98

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