Madeleine Reagan (1921-2008)

Madeleine Reagan was born on 25 December 1921 in North Adams, Massachusetts, the daughter of Fred Herbert Reagan (1883-1962) and Martha McAdoo (1894-1948). An only child, she had many cousins in North Adams and in the surrounding Berkshire Hills, where she spent much of her summers and holidays. In 1939 she graduated from Drury High School, where, possessed of a fine contralto voice, she sang leading roles in school musicals and operettas. Soon after graduation she met Sanger B. Steel, a student at Williams College in nearby Williamstown. The two began seeing one another; even after Sanger's graduation in 1940, when he moved to New York City to work, he continued to visit Madeleine on weekends, so that they had an "understanding" when Sanger joined the army early in 1941. Madeleine, by then known by the nickname "Mickey," took employment as a telephone switchboard operator, in North Adams, in Bayonne, New Jersey, and finally in Scotia, New York, where her parents moved in 1943. Sanger and Madeleine were married on 2 April, 1942 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Williamstown. With Sanger overseas, Madeleine spent the war years in Scotia with her parents.

On Sanger's return from the service, the couple moved to the Chicago area, where Sanger took graduate courses in education and began his teaching career. The Steels lived in Lake Forest in an apartment in an outbuilding of Thorndale Manor, an estate belonging to Sanger's cousin Frances Robinson Boardman and her husband. Here they remained until their second child was born in late 1949; soon afterward they purchased their first home, also in Lake Forest. In 1951 the family moved to Shanks Village, Rockland County, New York, where they lived in former Army barracks used after the war as student housing for veterans with families. Here Madeleine took pottery classes and contributed to the family's income by selling home-made fudge and cookies at Christmastime.

In 1953 the family moved to Scotia, New York; the following year, Madeleine's father, now a widower, closed his home there and moved in with the Steels. A third son, Robert, was born in 1961. While Sanger worked as a school principal and classroom teacher in nearby Niskayuna, Madeleine stayed at home to raise the children. She sang in the choir of Scotia Methodist Church and in the Mohawk Valley Chorus. Every summer, the family traveled to Leland, Michigan, where Sanger taught golf and tennis. When Sanger retired in 1971 due to presenile dementia (a condition not well understood at that time), she cared for him full time, while also raising her youngest son alone. When Sanger finally succumbed in 1983, Madeleine, only 61, returned to musical, social and volunteer activities, and led an active and independent life until her own health declined. In 1999, she moved to Oxford, Mississippi, first to an assisted living facility and later to a nursing home. She died there on 18 February 2008.

Sanger and Madeleine had three children: David Warren Steel (born 1947), William Reagan Steel (born 1949), and Robert Sanger Steel (1961-2019).


Miss Madeleine Reagan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred H. Reagan of 89 Hall street, and Lieut. Sanger B. Steel, of Fort Monmouth, N.J., were married last night at 9 o’clock at St. John’s church in Williamstown.

Rev. Dr. A. Grant Noble, rector, officiated. The attendants were Miss Margaret Ross of this city, and Munro Steel, of Chicago, Ill., brother of the bridegroom and a student at Williams college. The wedding marches were played by Horace N. Snape, organist of the church.

The bride wore an aquamarine faille suit, with brown accessories, and a corsage bouquet of marigolds. The bridesmaid wore a navy wool suit, with white accessories, and a corsage bouquet of magnificum lilies.

Following the ceremony, a reception was held at the home of the bride’s uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Albert H. Shields of First street, this city. Guests attended from this city, Longmeadow, White Plains, N.Y., Pittsfield and Dalton.

The bride is a graduate of Drury high school. She has been employed as telephone operator at the local exchange. Lieut. Steel is on duty with the U. S. Army Signal corps. He was graduated from Williams college in 1940. Lieut. and Mrs. Reagan [recte Steel] left today for a wedding trip to Fort Bragg, N. C., where Lieut. Steel was formerly stationed.

[The North Adams Transcript, 3 April 1942]

Madeleine Reagan Steel

Madeleine Reagan Steel, 86, died Monday, Feb. 18, 2008 at Graceland Care Center in Oxford. A memorial service will be held at Paris-Yates Chapel on the Ole Miss campus on Wednesday at 4 p.m. and in Leland, Mich. at a later date. Waller Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

A native of North Adams, Mass., she was a homemaker and raised three sons and cared for her own parents, and for her husband through a long illness, but led an active and independent life after his death in 1983. She had resided in Oxford since 1999.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Sanger B. Steel of Scotia, N.Y.

Survivors include three sons, Warren Steel of Oxford, William Steel of San Diego and Robert Steel of Port Chester, N.Y.; and three grandsons.

Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60601.

[Oxford Eagle, 25 February 2008]

[ Steel family | Warren Steel | UM Home ]