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Frank Steiger

F. Robert Steiger

Sunday, August 24th, 1924 - Thursday, October 17th, 2019
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Obituary

F. Robert Steiger

F. Robert (“Bob”) Steiger, 95, of Grosse Pointe Farms, passed away Thursday, October 17, 2019. He was born in Detroit to Patrick and Lilian (Laity) Steiger on August 25, 1924.

Bob was a well-known and well-liked leader in Detroit’s booming advertising business of the 1950’s through 1980’s. He retired in 1987 as the Creative Director and Executive Vice President of Ross Roy, Inc., where he also served on the Board of Directors.

He led a rich and rewarding life, with many achievements, adventures and friends. Modest and humble, he rarely talked about his accomplishments. Independent and stoic, he never asked for anything, but was always generous to others, contributing to or supporting many groups and causes, and always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need.

Bob grew up on Lakepointe St. in Grosse Pointe Park, and graduated from Grosse Pointe High School in 1942. At 17, still too young for the Navy, he joined the Merchant Marine and put out to sea on a liberty ship across the Atlantic. His first brush with death came not from enemy fire, but from acute appendicitis in rough seas off Gibraltar, with no physician in his convoy. His 6” jagged scar bore witness to the dangerous operation done on a tanker, by a pharmacist with no surgical training or instruments, who received instructions by marine radio.

Shortly thereafter, in September 1943, he transferred to the Navy, and was assigned to a minesweeper. One of his great memories was meeting and spending an afternoon with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall when their yacht was moored next to his ship in Pearl Harbor. He kept meticulous and fascinating WWII scrap books, which have several great photos of Bogart and Bacall. From Pearl Harbor, he headed to Okinawa and the Yangtze River in China, where he had a key role in minesweeping operations, one of the most dangerous assignments in the Navy. He received numerous medals, including the Philippine Liberation, Navy Commendation, American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Theater, and WWII Victory medals.

Returning home in June, 1946, he resumed rowing at the Detroit Boat Club, where he had rowed in high school before the war. He was captain of the DBC team that won the 1946 national championship. His rowing coach, Jud Ross, became a close friend, who also helped launch Bob’s advertising career, as an apprentice in the General Motors art department. He was hired in part based on the amazing pen and ink sketches he had done on his ship during the war. Bob was an extremely talented artist, favoring pen and ink and watercolors, but very adept in any medium. After subsequently working as a draftsman at Packard Motor, he became an art director at the D.P. Brother agency, which merged into Leo Burnett. From there he went to Ross Roy, where he spent the rest of his career, retiring in 1987.

Not one to sit idle, Bob soon took up decoy carving, which remained a passion the rest of his life, as he carved and painted decoys right to the end. He won many national and even world championships with his extraordinarily beautiful and accurate carving and painting. He did close to 200 pieces, mostly ducks of many species, sizes, shapes and colors, and also birds of prey, shorebirds, songbirds, and even some fish. He even did full size Canada goose, loons and a red-tailed hawk. His basement is full of blue ribbons and medals for his amazing decoys. He also leaves us with a beautiful collection of watercolor paintings, pen and ink sketches, and other works of art.

Bob was an avid reader. Every day he read several different newspapers, stayed current on all events and viewpoints, and always had at least one good book going as well. He preferred serious books to light-hearted reads, and particularly enjoyed history. He also loved 60 Minutes, and Sunday evening with that show was a family tradition. Bob was a lifelong and die-hard fan of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, and University of Michigan football, and was a loyal supporter of those teams through good times and bad times.

Half-Finnish, on his mother’s side, Bob was proud of his Finnish heritage, and admired their culture and values. Finland would be proud of him, a living example of sisu, always showing sisu in everything he did. He enjoyed visiting Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, where his Finnish relatives lived in the copper mining towns, and where he spent many memorable summers as a child.

Bob met and married Mary Schroff in 1946. They had one child, Jon Robert, born in 1957. Bob was a great family man as well as a successful ad man. He helped Mary with her many pursuits, including extensive furniture refinishing and decoupage, and helped and encouraged Jon in everything he did.

Mary passed away at 91 in September, 2015. His younger brother Chuck passed away in 2017. Bob is survived by his younger sister Katherine, his son Jon Robert, and his grandchildren Erik, Jayne, Luke, Paul and Irina.

A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at the Ivanhoe Cafe, 5249 Joseph Campau, Detroit, on Friday November 8 from 4 pm to 8 pm.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Friends of Detroit Rowing, c/o Karen Bell, Treasurer, 27551 Rackham Dr., Lathrup Village, MI 48076-3301 (https://www.detroitboatclubcrew.com/support), or to the Detroit Capuchins, 1820 Mt. Elliott St., Detroit, MI 48207 (www.thecapuchins.org/donate).

“He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again”.
-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet
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Br Nick Blattner Ofm Capuchin

Posted at 12:45pm
On behalf of the Capuchin brothers, I offer my deepest sympathies on the passing of Robert. It is truly humbling to receive memorial donations in honor of Robert's life. Please be assured of the prayers of all the brothers for the entire Steiger family during this great time of grief. May perpetual light shine upon Robert!
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