Betty “Cindy” Fischer Polhemus Steakley
Cindy was born to Everett Buckley and Hazel Fischer Polhemus on December 13, 1932 in Staten Island, New York. She attended public schools in Tottenville, New York, graduating from high school in 1950. She earned a bachelor of science in education from Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia in 1955 and then taught first grade in Coral Gables, Florida.
In 1957 she noticed an ad for teachers to teach Department of Defense dependent children in West Germany. She seized the opportunity, applied and was accepted. Thus in 1957 she traveled to Kitzingen, West Germany and taught first grade. During 1957 and early 1958 she and three other teachers traveled to most of Europe, to include East Berlin when the wall was up.
In the spring of 1958 she met John Steakley, an army lieutenant who had just arrived in Germany. After a relentless pursuit by John Cindy finally said “yes”. They were married in a civil ceremony in the Kitzingen city hall on June 3, 1959. Very shortly after that Cindy returned to New York and in seven short weeks arranged a formal military wedding in the Cadet Chapel at West Point (USMA) on July 19, 1959
John and Cindy returned to Germany and moved to Schweinfurt, Germany and Cindy continued to teach first grade. They returned to USA on July 4, 1961 for John to attend school at Fort Benning, GA, where their first son John, JR was born. Their next move (1962) was to New York where John taught ROTC at Fordham and Cindy had her first opportunity to establish, furnish and run a new home (excellent job). While there their second son, Mark was born in 1963. In 1964 John left for one year in Korea, leaving Cindy to manage the home and finances while raising two boys.
In 1965 the family moved to Fort Ord, CA for what became a short tour because John received orders to attend an advisor’s school and report to Vietnam for a one year tour. While John was is in school Cindy delivered their third son, Matt in 1967. Upon John’s return they moved to Fort Dix, NJ in 1968. In 1970 John was given the choice of serving 11/2 years in Vietnam and putting the family in government quarters anywhere in the world or only one year and find housing for the family. The decision was to choose 11/2 year tour. After John’s schooling the family moved to Schofield Barracks, HI. While there their fourth son, Mike was born in 1971. Their final military move was in 1975, John to Fort Stewart, GA and Cindy and the boys to Fort Myers, FL where she established a home in a 19ft travel trailer which served the family off and on from 1975 to 1979. Through all of these moves and changing demands Cindy was the glue that held the family together.
For the forty years of retired life Cindy accomplished many of the things she had always wanted to do. She continued her love of sewing, arts, and crafts. She designed and made many of the costumes and props used in the annual church Boars Head Festival and exhibited at arts and craft shows around southwest Florida. She helped establish the Saint Luke’s Bell Choir and designed, help build and managed the Saint Luke’s Gift Shoppe. During the retirement years she was able travel to visit her sons and return to Europe for several visits. She also was granted a patent for a traveling drinking water device.
She often mentioned the main thing she in life was to be a mother. She accomplished this with distinction.
Through the last twenty years of her life she suffered with Parkinson’s Disease. She fought a strong and good battle against the disease but succumbed to the disease on September 1, 2019.
She is survived by her husband, John; her sons, John Jr(Charlene); Mark(Susanah); Matthew(Jennifer) and Michael; And three grandchildren Kaitlyn, Michaela, And Shawn.
A memorial service, followed by a reception, will be held at 3:00pm Saturday, October 12, 2019 at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, 2635 Cleveland Avenue, Fort Myers, Florida.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Cindy’s name to the Hope Parkinson Program http//donate.hopehcs.org/parkinsonprogram.