Ricky Allen Steele, Former NOND Board Member


Ricky Allen Steele, Former NOND Board Member died September 03, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Rick was a most remarkable man with many talents and an incredible zest for life. He woke up every day whistling like Jiminy Cricket, ready to go, bringing a positive spirit to every situation and to each person he encountered. Born prematurely in a four-room country hospital in West Virginia, he just couldn't wait to get out into the world and make his significant impact on it.

As a recreational enthusiast, Ricky was determined to inspire others to join him in enjoying swimming, back-packing, hiking the Grand Canyon, skiing the steeper slopes, bungee-jumping, parachuting from an airplane, and otherwise getting the most out of the life he loved living. He was an incredible dancer, and could often be found playing cards or participating in any competition.

Above all, Rick recognized and cared for the well being of others. As a child, he saved his school treat to give to his younger brother when he got home, simply because he knew it would bring such delight. Rick could sense what was going on with others, anticipate their thoughts and feelings, and seemed to know the things to say and do to make a difference for them.

Rick knew as early as kindergarten that he wanted to be a teacher or caregiver, and this spirited drive led to his career as a Registered Nurse. With a B.S. in Biology from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, and an R.N. Diploma from Albert Einstein Medical Center School of Nursing, Rick began his nursing career in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania working in the Intensive Care unit at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

After Philadelphia, he worked as a traveling nurse, taking short-term critical care assignments throughout the United States for charge positions, open heart recovery, and trauma ICU. One such bedside was in a castle outside London, where he was helping filmmaker Stanley Kubrick convince his ailing father to relocate from his condo in West L.A. When Rick's six-week tour was over, the elder Kubrick announced he wasn't staying in England, either, saying, "I'm going back with Rick!"

In 1983, Rick relocated to Los Angeles, California, working as a preceptor training newly hired nurses for intensive care. Looking for the opportunity to learn his way around the city, he took a second job as a home health care nurse. Finding the weather and location of Los Angeles ideal, he decided that Southern California was where he wanted to settle.

The following year he met Bob Hopkins, his partner and fellow traveller of 25 years:

"I never met a more amazing man than Ricky Steele--with everybody he shared the robust life that was his, in the process letting others see themselves with new eyes, with redeeming wisdom, and with much more joy. Knowing Rick meant you were allowed to recognize the goodness you carry within yourself, and more importantly, to bring it forward and act upon it."

A source of great joy for Rick and Bob in the past sixteen years has been creating a home in a two-story dwelling with a parklike back yard. A place of many spaces and levels, access proved difficult for Rick once he was limited to a wheelchair a few years ago. The solutions were simple, and most economical: an elevator and a redwood walkway restored Rick's ability to navigate!

While the initial portion of his career was devoted to hands-on bedside nursing, the remainder was definitely centered in business nursing. In 1987, he entered the insurance industry. He was quite proud of working with Provident Life & Accident Insurance Co., becoming Regional Manager for Case Management programs. Prior to his medical leave of absence, he was the Director of Managed Care at Blue Cross of California, managing both the Utilization Review and Case Management departments.

Rick was recognized professionally as three-time chair of the Case Management Society of America - Southern California Chapter (CMSA-SCC) yearly case management conference, as well as the President of CMSA-SCC and recipient of the 1999 - 2000 Case Manager of the Year award.

From high school on throughout his life, Rick loved to volunteer. His compassionate heart drew him to participate in all sorts of community events, to help save his niece's life, and to work on behalf of impoverished families in Central America. In typical “Rick fashion,” after the initial shock of the Northridge earthquake right under his house, he went to the nearest emergency room to offer his help, rolling around the ICU along with his patients amid the aftershocks.

In addition he was actively involved with on-going volunteer work in Los Angeles, such as providing medical check-ups and immunizations at St. John's Children's Wellness Clinic and serving on the PBS affiliate KCET's Community Advisory Board. Always an avid reader, Rick shared his passion by volunteering to edit and record for Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D).

More recently, as a nurse with the spinal cord disability Transverse Myelitis, Rick helped develop the newly founded National Organization for Nurses with Disabilities (NOND), and contributed time and expertise to the Transverse Myelitis Association (TMA). Rick was serving on the Board of Directors for Project Chacocente, a non-profit organization that transforms the lives of the poorest of the poor living at the dumps of Managua, Nicaragua by educating them and relocating them to rural farmland.

Rick adored all children, and they absolutely adored him. Lately, Rick was delighted to discover how his motorized wheelchair, with no conversion necessary, could be used for joy riding with the pint-sized neighbors next door. In addition to family, his college roommates' kids became to him as if they were his own as he followed their years of growth and development.

Throughout his life, Rick encouraged people to achieve their best, and did everything he could to help them do so. Not only did he assist others in a business capacity, training and supervising dozens of nurses, but also in personal ways, such as spending many laughter-filled hours helping a close friend find her perfect first home in wildly diverse L.A.

Rick was a person that could make one smile, just thinking of him. His excitement for life was positively contagious. He had wonderful, warm relationships with a wide range of people, and made an effort to keep in touch with them regularly. Those fortunate enough to know Rick were greatly impacted by his loving, upbeat, energetic spirit, and he will leave his mark on their lives forever.