LEBANON, ILLINOIS—Conrad G. Steinhoff, 90, of Lebanon, IL, born April 19,1932 in Madison, WI, died March 2, 2023 under hospice care at his youngest daughter’s home in Madison, WI surrounded by family.
Conrad attended La Grange Community College and then Wheaton College, graduating in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. After serving in the Army in West Germany, he earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago.
Service to others drove Conrad throughout his life. He spent his career in social services, working at Chicago group homes for youth: Randall House, Lawrence Hall, Ulich Childrens Home, Mary Bartelme and Drexel House. Some nights Conrad would be on call with the phone ringing in the middle of the night. “It would ring, then ring again,” son Jon said. “He would clear his throat, then say ‘Hello.’ He wanted to make sure he sounded awake so the people calling didn’t feel bad that they woke him up.”
Conrad and his second wife, Margaret Pearson, moved to Centralia, Illinois where he became Residential Director for the Hoyleton Children’s Home. They then moved to Lebanon in 1987. In addition to working full time, he directed church choirs in the area and he continued to advance the welfare of children and families by co-founding and running Lebanon Kids Inc. Conrad also was deeply involved in many ministries in the east St. Louis metropolitan area, including Christian Home Care, serving as interim director and a volunteer driver, and as director of Beacon of Belleville. Conrad served as a Big Brother and was a longtime member of the Lebanon Rotary Club. He was the 2013 recipient of the United Voices for Children’s Mary Renfro Child Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2011 Martin Luther King Humanitarian award from McKendree University.
Conrad’s four children, Carolyn, Steve, Jon and Becky, inherited his dedication to serving others, with all four spending their careers in public service ranging from teaching to social work to urban planning. From both parents they learned “an ethos of having to make a difference in the world, to help people and make the world a better place,” Steve said.
Passionate about racial justice and activism, Conrad took his children to protests for the environment and civil rights.
As a father, Conrad played with his children without directing or controlling their actions as they devised games and activities. “Dad put up a basketball hoop in the alley,” Jon said. “I remember playing and making up games and the rules. I got to have basketball on my own terms with my dad. That experience made me be conscious with my own kids and my grand-nephews.”
Three Billy Goats Gruff was a favor, serving both as a ite game for Carolyn, with Conrad turning over a chair to be the troll under the bridge. “Who’s that tramping over the bridge?” he would say.
Conrad also shared his love of music, Carolyn said. “Classical music would always be on the radio or he would be playing the piano,” she said. “We would gather around, and he would play and sing children’s songs.” On family car trips they would sing rounds, the six of them in a Plymouth Valiant with no seat belts. Those family vacations involved hiking, canoeing, and backpacking to connect with nature.
For more than 20 years Conrad wrote a column, “Viewpoint,” for the Lebanon Advertiser. “I felt this urge to write, and the newspaper was sitting there with no opinion piece at all,” Conrad said in November 2022. “I thought ‘I can put an opinion piece in there and have something of value for the community.’”
The columns often shared Conrad’s liberal perspective, sometimes calling out people who supported politicians who did not act Christian. “For 20 plus years he was able to write columns that challenged the thinking of the majority of people in the town in a way that built respect and community,” Becky said.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Pauline (Woods) Steinhoff.
Survivors include his wife, Margaret Pearson of Lebanon, IL; his brother, Richard (Elaine) Steinhoff of Vashon, Washington; his first wife, Betty Jean (Henderson) Steinhoff of Madison, WI; their four children Carolyn (Terrence Ross) Steinhoff of Brooklyn, NY, Stephen (Audrey Lesondak) Steinhoff of Madison, WI, Jonathan (Janet Walker) Steinhoff of Portland, OR, and Rebecca (Bret Hagemeyer) Steinhoff of Madison, WI; grandchildren Phoebe Valenti, Chloe Steinhoff-Smith, Seth Lesondak, Elize Steinhoff, Simon Swifter, Owen Swifter, Emory Hagemeyer and Calli Steinhoff; and great-grandsons Benny Valenti and Enzo Valenti.
Visitation will be from 6 – 8 p.m., Friday, June 16 and from 9 – 10 a.m. Saturday, June 17 at the First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, IL. Services to celebrate the life of Conrad will be Saturday, June 17, 2023, at 10 a.m. at the Lebanon First United Methodist Church. Burial will be at College Hill Cemetery in Lebanon, IL.
Friends may leave condolences online at www.KalmerMemorialServices.com. Kalmer Memorial Services in Lebanon is in charge of arrangements.