Florence W. Steffen dies at 79

Longtime secretary in Anne Arundel County Police Department's public information office

May 20, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Florence W. Steffen, an institution in the Anne Arundel County Police Department's public information office, where her expertise earned her respect from police officers, the news media and the public during her lengthy career, died Saturday of heart failure at a daughter's Glen Burnie home.

She was 79.

"I was extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Florence Steffen," Col. James Teare Jr., Arundel's chief of police, said in a statement announcing her death.

"She served the Police Department with excellence for more than three decades and was well respected by members of the department and the public," he said.

"She was the very model of consistency, and that was very evident in her voice. While the media may not have met her face-to-face, they certainly knew Flo's voice," said Justin Mulcahy, public information officer for the Arundel Police Department.

"She understood the impatience of the media, and she offered them a certain level of comfort," Mr. Mulcahy said.

"That's not easily replaced, and it's going to be hard not hearing her voice on the phone because she was a such a staple here for years," he said.

Florence Carolyn Weller was born and raised in West Baltimore. She was a 1948 graduate of Western High School and never missed a day during her 12-year school career, family members said.

Mrs. Steffen worked as a model and later as a Hochschild-Kohn department store sales associate.

In the early 1960s, she married Heinie Steffen, a paint contractor who died in 1981.

Mrs. Steffen went to work for the Police Department in 1975. She was briefly assigned to Central Records before joining the public information office.

Mrs. Steffen spent the rest of her career until her death working as PIO secretary, maintaining meticulous office files, sorting incident reports for the department and reporters, and attending to media inquiries.

"She was unflappable because through the years she had seen and heard it all," recalled Mr. Mulcahy. "She'd always go above and beyond the call of duty for folks."

He described Mrs. Steffen as being " firm but fair" and a person who easily explained why at times she "agreed to disagree."

"She was respected and she reciprocated," he said.

Capt. Joseph E. Jordan, commander of the county's Northern District, worked with Mrs. Steffen from 2000 to 2006.

"Florence was a great lady who had a heart of gold and, believe me, she knew the PIO's office inside and out. When you were new there, you knew she'd show you the ropes," said Captain Jordan.

Captain Jordan said that Mrs. Steffen enjoyed talking about her family.

"She was always bragging about her children and grandchildren, but at the same time, she'd ask about your children and what they were up to," he said. "She was a wonderful, wonderful lady."

Capt. Dave Waltemeyer, who now commands the county's Eastern District, worked with Mrs. Steffen for nearly three years.

"Flo was a creature of habit, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. She was reliable and she was there every day," he said. "She really cared about people — the officers and reporters — and the department always came first."

Captain Waltemeyer was in homicide when he first worked with Mrs. Steffen.

"She was a tough taskmaster, but you could always trust her," he said. "She always got it right in what information could or could not be released."

Captain Waltemeyer recalled his early days in the PIO's office and being a little camera-shy.

"I was a little nervous about being on camera and went to Flo for advice. We all did," he said.

He recalled her reaction after he ordered new chairs to replace old, worn ones.

"Flo used hers for two days, and on the third day, the new one was sitting out in the hall, and she was sitting in her old one," he said with a laugh.

Captain Waltemeyer added: "She exemplified how much she cared for the job by the way she did it and for just being there."

"Through many years of change, Florence remained the one constant in the office, and her invaluable presence was profound," Mr. Mulcahy said.

"The only hobby she had was her family," said a daughter, Carla R. Solis of Glen Burnie.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Loudon Park Funeral Home, 3620 Wilkens Ave.

Also surviving are a son, Walter Steffen of Marydel; another daughter, Shirley A. Steffen of Baltimore; a brother, Nelson "Butch" Weller of Glen Burnie; two sisters, Delores Rice of Pasadena and Ruth Hesterberg of Seaford, Del.; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.


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