I wanted to share with you the obituary that was written by my Uncle Raymond this past weekend for my grandfather. It captures some wonderful highlights of his life and helps us all relive some fond memories.
JoPaul’s mother, Mabel, was an entertainer and very well connected in show business circles. In the 1920’s the Steiner’s counted amongst their friends legendary singers, actors and comedians such as Sophie Tucker, Al Jolson and Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle. Mabel was also a classic ‘stage mom’ and as a child of five JoPaul was performing on radio stations and various entertainment venues around the country. When the opportunity to audition for the very successful kid’s comedy series ‘Our Gang’ (popularly known as the ‘Little Rascals’) Mabel’s friend Arbuckle made all the arrangements and JoPaul was subsequently offered the opportunity to join the cast. Unfortunately one month later Arbuckle suffered a major public ‘fall from grace’, his reputation terminally tarnished and JoPaul’s father Louis refused to allow his son to join the entertainment business. Not one to let obstacles deter him JoPaul continued to entertain many, in a variety of ways, for the rest of his life.
JoPaul Steiner (formerly Joseph Lee Steiner) was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 14, 1916, the only child of Lewis Henry Steiner, owner of two furniture stores in Chicago. In 1929 Lewis lost both of his businesses when the stock market crashed but soon after was offered a position at Kirschman’s Furniture in New Orleans. The Steiner family headed down to the ‘Big Easy’. As a young man JoPaul continued to act in the theatre and on radio but soon took his father’s advice and turned his attention to learning how the furniture business worked.
It was in New Orleans that he met his wife Sylvia (nee Siegel). They met through JoPaul’s best friend, who at the time was dating Sylvia and was quite fond of her. But after garnering up the nerve, JoPaul asked Sylvia out on a date and after being together for just two hours on that very first date he asked her to marry him. They married on June 13th, 1940 and stayed truly, madly and deeply in love for 72 years. In 1942 the family moved to Baton Rouge where they made their permanent home. JoPaul opened ‘S & S Furniture’ in 1943 and later ‘Paul’s Furniture’. When a recession hit hard in the late 1950’s, he forsook the furniture business and looked to a different profession to keep everyone happy and well fed. For the rest of his working life he was a successful financial consultant, becoming a member of the ‘Million Dollar Roundtable’ club in the course of his career.
JoPaul was an excellent athlete and excelled in swimming and golf. He started playing golf at age nine and was the junior champion of Chicago by the age of eleven. He played golf for the rest of his life and in his later years he created the Octogenarian golf team. The team consisted of member players that were all over 80. The ‘Octogenarian’s’ raised over a million dollars for various charities playing in tournaments in and around Louisiana and Mississippi. He also was a ‘ringleader’ in creating the Senior Olympics in Louisiana in 1984 and was a very active participant as well. He won hundreds of medals and awards for golf, swimming, billiards, shuffleboard and other sporting events over the years. As a member of the U.S. Masters Swimming Team for eighteen years, he was rated in the top-ten in his age bracket and holds records in both Australia and Great Britain.
In the 1950’s JoPaul served on the board of Governors of the Baton Rouge Little Theatre and throughout the years appeared in countless productions. He was nominated four times for ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Supporting’ actor and was inducted into the BRLT ‘Hall of Fame’. He also appeared in many television commercials and Hollywood film productions shooting in Louisiana. In 1973 he opened ‘The Dinner Theatre’, the first successful dinner theatre in Baton Rouge. JoPaul was an active member of the Baton Rouge Jewish community. As a member of Temple B’nai Israel he received the President’s Award from his congregation. He was also the State President of the B’nai Brith, a Jewish men’s community activist organization. He served as State President of the YMBC and participated in numerous community groups and committees. He was a volunteer for over 15 years at the Women’s Hospital and received the ‘Volunteer Activist’ award in 1987.
JoPaul and Sylvia loved to travel and have been throughout the United States, Australia, India, New Zealand, Scotland, Great Britain and most of Europe. JoPaul passed away peacefully at 1.30am, Friday December 28th 2012. He was loved dearly and will be deeply missed. He is survived by his wife Sylvia, his three children Judy, Raymond and Maureen, six grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. Services will be held on Monday, December 31st at Congregation B’nai Israel located at 3354 Kleinert Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70806. Visitation is from 9:30-10:30 am at the Temple then a short service at 10:30 am followed by burial at the Jewish cemetery, 1400 block of North Street, Baton Rouge. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Women’s Hospital Foundation or Congregation B’nai Israel.
While greatly saddened by his passing, it was a time where family could come together, relive our fondest memories, and make new ones.