Two years after Orville “Buzz” Steffan went to partake of the great Wedding Banquet in heaven, his wife, daughters and sons decided to prepare something like it for Thanksgiving Day.
They and a group of fellow Immaculate Conception parishioners and friends from throughout the area threw open the doors of the Knights of Columbus Hall in Montgomery City and had a Thanksgiving feast for over 100 people.
“He was really involved in the parish, in the community, in the Knights — in everything, really,” said Dot Steffan, who shared 62 years of married life with Mr. Steffan. “So we thought this would be something nice.”
They served turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, rolls, drinks and desserts, free of charge.
“We even threw in some cranberry sauce if people wanted it,” said Mrs. Steffan.
The kitchen crew consisted of the Steffan clan, along with friends, members of Knights of Columbus Council 2044, of which Mr. Steffan served two terms as grand knight, and volunteers from the Northeast Community Action Center (NECAC) in Montgomery City.
“We had just the right amount of help,” said Mrs. Steffan. “We weren’t getting in each other’s way.”
She told the Montgomery Standard newspaper that this was exactly what her husband, who never met a stranger and was a tireless community servant, would have wanted.
“He was such a great guy, always friendly with everybody, and involved in just about everything,” she told the Standard.
The Knights let the family use the hall.
The family bought the food, started preparing it on Wednesday afternoon, served it from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and worked until late cleaning up.
“It’s pretty much the same thing as cooking Thanksgiving for a family but on a larger scale,” said Mrs. Steffan. “Instead of having one turkey, we had 12.”
The guests included people without the means to have a big meal, as well as people who don’t have family in the area and were looking for some fellowship.
“We didn’t want for this to be just a Catholic thing,” said Mrs. Steffan. “We wanted it to be a community thing. And that’s what it turned out to be.”
A parishioner named Samuel gave an impromptu talk and sang some songs.
The family gave away a quilt as an attendance prize. After everyone had eaten, there were two whole roasted turkeys left over, so they gave those away, too.
“Everyone said the food was very good, so we felt very, very pleased with how it all went,” said Mrs. Steffan.
“The weather was perfect,” she said. “It couldn’t have been any better for people to get out and enjoy. It was a perfect day altogether.”
“God in the middle”
At a parish and Knights event back in 2011, Mr. Steffan offered some advice for having a long, happy marriage.
“Keep God in the middle of it. It makes everything work better.”
He and Mrs. Steffan grew up in St. Louis County — she in Kirkwood, he in Chesterfield.
They got married and moved to Montgomery County in 1955.
“My husband used to farm the ground that they have that mall on now,” said Mrs. Steffan, laughingly referring to Chesterfield Mall. “So things have changed some.”
Over time, Mr. Steffan got involved in parish and school activities, including the Knights of Columbus and the Knights’ Fourth Degree assembly, Marriage Encounter, Quest and TEC retreats for teens, and the Immaculate Conception School Board, along with an array of local farming, community and service organizations.
It was a team effort, with Mrs. Steffan sharing some of the pursuits directly and offering encouragement and moral support on others.
“He loved to be involved,” she said. “It meant a lot to him.”
So when their daughters came up with the idea of doing something this year to draw people from all segments of the community together, “I said we need to do it for Dad,” said Mrs. Steffan.
She extended a big thank-you to everyone who attended the event.
“It made us very happy,” she said. “We enjoyed doing it. We were all tired by the end of the day — but a happy tired.”
All the work and preparation kept everyone too busy to dwell on missing the family patriarch.
“He’s in a better place,” said Mrs. Steffan.