Douglas A. Steele, age 54, of Champaign, IL drowned while swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of El Salvador on January 8, 2023. Doug was born January 10, 1968 in Sterling, IL to Carl and Lula (Saliba) Steele but grew up in Rockford, IL. Doug graduated from Guilford High School in 1986 where he excelled in both academics and sports. While a student at Guilford, Doug earned eleven letters in sports and set six all-school wrestling records and still holds the best record in the #119 weight class. He was a loyal Minnesota Vikings fan.
Doug received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Engineering in Transportation and Highway Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. At the University of Illinois, Doug was active in several engineering clubs and received multiple awards.
Doug was employed by ERES Consultants and, after ERES’ acquisition, with Applied Research Associates (ARA) for nearly 30 years. While at ARA he became recognized nationally as a leading expert in his field.
When ERES offered Doug the opportunity to work in Chile, he relocated to South America. While working in Chile, Doug met and married Claudia Riffo and they had one son, Lenny Steele. While Doug and Claudia would later divorce, they maintained an amiable relationship throughout Doug’s life and kept Lenny at the center of their attention.
Doug is best known for his love for life, generosity, humility, and community service. Doug taught Sunday School at New Horizon Church for over 20 years. He will be remembered for 11 mission trips he made to El Salvador. When Doug’s friends or colleagues needed a hand, it was often Doug to whom they turned as he repeatedly showed his willingness to offer assistance whenever and wherever it was needed. Among his community service endeavors was volunteering to clear brush and remove large fallen trees from bike trails in Kickapoo State Park as a member of the Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club. His legacy of serving his community and helping his fellow man will live on.
Doug was an avid mountain bike rider and hiker. Some of his more memorable hikes were Cierro Pirre mountain in remote Darién National Park in Panama, Pikes Peak, and various mountains in Arizona, Colorado, and West Virginia.
Doug will be remembered as a loving father, son, brother, uncle, and cousin to all who knew him. Doug is survived by his son, Lenny Steele of Champaign, IL, parents Carl and Lula Steele of Rockford, IL, brother Jeff Steele and his spouse Maria Sokurashvili of Washington, DC, brother Greg Steele and his partner Kim Xayalath of Rockford, IL, nephews Michael Steele and Evan Steele of Washington, DC, Derreck Keopanya of Chicago, IL, and former spouse Claudia Riffo of Laja, Chile. Doug was a remarkable person and will be tremendously missed by all.
A Celebration of Life memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 28, at New Horizon Church, 3002 W. Bloomington Rd, Champaign, IL 61823 with visitation beginning at 11:00 am and services at 1:00 pm A luncheon will follow the service. In leu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Doug’s memory to New Horizon Church, the Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club (197 Heritage Trace, Danville, Il 61834), or to the choice of the donor.
Posted online on January 20, 2023
Published in Rockford Register Star