It was on a South African farm where Cedric Steele adopted his dedication to taking care of others.
“I was taught very early to look after all those in your village, because they were really your responsibility,” Steele says nearly 60 years later, in the office he’s occupied for 30 years, overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
“That stayed with me all my life.”
Steele’s biography contains no shortage of projects he’s taken on – and asked why he became involved with the multitude of boards, committees and non-profits, his answer always comes back to service.
As a member of the local Salvation Army’s advisory board, he helped improve the organization’s Christmas kettles campaign by encouraging businesses to become corporate sponsors.
Noticing a TV commercial for an initiative called Crime Stoppers in Hawaii in the 1980s, he brought the idea back to the Victoria police board and helped launch Crime Stoppers’ local branch.
His involvement on the board for the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health was slightly more personal, having lost the use of his left arm to polio at age 12, he adds, “I thought I would like to serve and help the children.”
Outside his many community-minded endeavours, Steele has two businesses. He has owned and operated Prospect Lake Golf Course since 1974 and is president of Cedric Steele Realty, which he founded in 1972.
That latter business, located on Wharf Street and lending Steele his stunning harbour-view office, also gave him the means to dedicate himself to so many extra-curricular activities, he says.
“I always believed if you would keep a property for 50 years and not sell it, I would be in a position now where my family doesn’t have to worry about money.”
Steele also took on the task of “building a bridge” between the navy and the rest of the Victoria community.
“I wanted to reopen this dialogue because I hear (military) people say it was uncomfortable coming downtown because of the way they were treated. That was probably 20 years ago. Now I hear people say they’re proud to be in their uniforms.”
He was named Honorary Captain of CFB Esquimalt in 1997 and in that time, sailed on several warships, and brought the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to Canadian waters.
Steele and retired Rear Admiral Ken Summers co-chaired a committee that gathered enough funding to install the Homecoming statue at Ship Point for the navy’s 100th anniversary.
The committee raised enough money to install a second statue there. That installation happens May 1.
Despite making community service a priority, Steele says he has a mandate on caring for those closest to him. “It’s like the ripples of a pebble in a pond – the first circle is family, then there’s all the people outside your family who are related to you,” he says.
Next, there’s the small scale-village of acquaintances and friends, and finally, the larger village that encompasses the whole city.
The 67-year-old adds he’s got about 20 years of service left in him.
“I think life is a runway. I’m probably three-quarters of the way down this runway of life and I still see some things in the distance I want to do.”