Richard William Steller, 78, passed peacefully from life to eternal life on August 12, 2019, at Village Crest Center for Health and Rehabilitation, New Milford, CT. Rick was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on July 26, 1941, the son of Edward Wilson and Alice Deimling Steller, both of whom predeceased him. In 1955 he was a member of the first graduating class at Holy Trinity School in Arlington and four years later graduated from Poughkeepsie High School. During the late 1950’s, Rick earned the Boy Scout Eagle Award and honed his mechanical skills while working at Quinlan and Murphy’s garage on Main Street in Arlington.
After studying at Marian (now Marist) College for a year, Rick enrolled in the New York State Department of Transportation’s Honors Program where he studied and worked to build the Interstate Highway system. Among the many projects, he worked on was the original Tappan Zee Bridge as the lead soil scientist and Interstate Route 84 from the Hudson River to the Connecticut border blasting rock and again as lead soil scientist for the region. He earned a Bachelors Degree from the City University of Los Angeles and a diploma in Building Construction from the Granton Institute of Technology. He was also classified as a Certified Professional Constructor by the American Institute of Constructors.
In 1967 he began his career in the Highway Engineering Unit of the Dutchess County Department of Public Works where he designed Lime Kiln Road in East Fishkill and then supervised the construction of that road. Rick was also a member of the adjunct faculty at Dutchess Community College teaching Surveying. In 1999 he retired from the Department of Public Works as Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Highway Construction and Maintenance.
Rick was concerned about his community and spent countless hours as Vice President of the County Traffic Safety Board attempting to improve highway safety locally. He was also concerned with the water supply as well as pollutants in the Town of Washington and was a twenty-year member of the Town of Washington Planning Board. In addition, he was a member of the Executive Board of the County Boy Scouts of America.
Rick had a passion for studying both American and European History. He was a member of the Dutchess County Muzzleloaders Club where he enjoyed black powder events and learning about the various craftsman who designed and built the rifles used in the 1700 and 1800s. While repairing old black powder rifles, he was able to use his carpentry, welding and engraving skills.
Since Rick shared the same surname with German naturalist George William Steller, who explored Alaska for Russia with Vitus Bering in the mid-1700s, Rick enjoyed traveling to Alaska especially above the arctic circle. In Dutchess County, he raised his own Siberian Huskies and when there was sufficient snow, he would hitch up and run a dog sled team.
On April 16, 1983, Rick married Bridget R. Rahilly at St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church in Pawling, New York. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, Kyle A. Steller (George Drivas), Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Bridget A. Scarlato (Stephen), Windsor, CT and Grainne E. Cooley (Scott), Lagrange, N.Y., seven grandchildren, his brother Rodney E. Steller DMD and sister-in-law Ginny of Ivoryton, CT, as well as two nieces and many cousins.
In spite of Rick’s 50 years of work attempting to improve highway safety, on the afternoon of December 31, 2011, a local youth drove a pickup truck in the wrong lane around a blind curve on a Town of Washington road, striking the vehicle Rick was driving head-on and causing Rick massive and severe injuries which changed his life forever. Since then he has required care from numerous medical professionals, some of whom have provided excellent treatment during the duration of his disability. The Steller family is particularly grateful for the care provided to Rick over the past seven and one half years by Glenn M. Seliger, M.D., West Haverstraw, N.Y., Vasant B. Khachane, M.D., New Haven, CT, Michael Soliday, M.D., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Richard B. Frimer, M.D., White Plains, N.Y., Rod Steller, DMD, New Haven, CT, Kamran Haleem, M.D., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Paul Jee, M.D., Salt Point, N.Y., Gary Csaszar, PT, cert MDT, Rebecca Connolly, MS, CCC-SLP, as well as the staff of the Brain Trauma Unit at Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, N.Y., the staff of White Plains Hospital, White Plains, N.Y., the staff of New Milford Hospital, New Milford, CT, the staff at the Lutheran Care Adult Day Health Care, Poughkeepsie, New York and the staff at Village Crest Center for Health and Rehabilitation, New Milford, CT.
Rick’s family will receive friends on Friday, August 16th, from 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. at Horn & Thomes, Inc. Funeral Home, 83 E. Main Street, Pawling, N.Y. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at St. Joseph’s Church, Millbrook, N.Y., at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday, August 17th. Burial will follow at the Steller family plot at Calvary Cemetery, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Helen Hayes Hospital Foundation, Inc., Traumatic Brain Injury Unit, 51-55 Route 9W, West Haverstraw, N.Y. 10993.