Bernard Augustus Steele was born in Chepstow, Prince Edward Island (PEI) on August 16, 1902. He was one of eleven children of Roderick and Josephine (MacAulay) Steele. Bernard was the third oldest. My grandmother Margaret was the second youngest. Their other siblings included Mary Loretta (“Laura”), Philip Francis (“Phil”), Michael “Joseph”, Mary Anne, Robert (Bob), Cyrene, Pius & Leo (twins), and Sadie.
Growing up, I heard my grandmother tell many stories about her siblings. Stories of Bernard and Joseph seemed to go hand in hand. They were close in age (2 years apart) and both went to the United States at an early age to work. Tragically, they only returned to PEI to be buried. Both boys died tragically young. Joseph was electrocuted at age 26. Bernard was killed in a car accident five years later on July 7, 1934, at age 32.. Both brothers were buried alongside their parents in the St. Mary’s Cemetery in Souris, PEI.
Bernard (left) and Joseph (right).
The only thing I really knew about Bernard was that he trained as a boxer. I was also told that he had professional bouts, which is reinforced by the fact that studio photographs exist of him in his boxer stance. One of these images was included in my first run of Five Blue Buttons cards.
At the time of his death, Bernard was engaged to be married. His fiancée sent home to my grandmother a few of Bernard’s belongings. When discussing this with my Mother recently, she recalled that they had a gramophone growing up that belonged to Bernard. She was surprised to learn of a few other items, which I now possess. The first being a lovely old cast iron frying pan. The second being a large religious statue that for as long as any of us recall, stood at the top of the stairs in my grandmother’s home. What many of us didn’t realize is that it belonged to Bernard.
Two years ago my cousin Cheryl from Massachusetts (granddaughter of Bernard’s sister Laura) brought Steele family photos to PEI to share with us. These photographs are a treasure. The images offer a glimpse into the lives of my grandmother’s siblings that none of us had really seen before. Six of my grandmother's siblings moved from PEI to the United States. Included in these photos were images of Bernard, Joseph, Laura, Phil, and Cyrene. And what really struck me, and still stays with me, is the fact that they were all together. I never had a sense of them being away and together like this before seeing these photos. It really struck a chord with me and filled my heart with joy to see these images. Perhaps because I too now live away, but don’t have any siblings living close by. To know that they were together, even some of the time warmed my heart.
Bernard (left), Laura (center) and Joseph (right).
In one particular set of images, the family members had obviously attended an occasion worthy of dressing up. What I also noticed, was Bernard holding a woman’s hand. I can only assume this may have been his fiancée.
Left to right: Laura and her husband Raymond, Joseph Steele, Phil Steele, Bernard’s fiancée (?), and Bernard.
It is always of course important to remember those who came before us - to remember their names, lives, and their stories. Bernard, unfortunately, didn’t leave behind any direct descendants. I wish I know more of his story. Perhaps this is the reason I was driven to include him in my cards.
Bernard (back and middle).