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Giving to honor parents brings large family closer

When John Steiner decided with his siblings to create scholarships at two area high schools, his group wasn’t a whole lot smaller than the graduating classes.

John Steiner comes from a family with 16 children – all but two still surviving. To take on a project with his family means covering an age range of more than 20 years and organizing people scattered from Greenville to Madison and San Antonio to New York City.

But it was about honoring their parents – Leo and Jeanette Steiner.

The family lived on a 75-acre farm south of Chilton. Leo was a factory worker on the small engine assembly line at Tecumseh, as well as a farmer. Jeanette, incredibly, had the energy to be a teacher’s aide in New Holstein after raising all those kids.

Ten girls. Six boys. Two sets of twins.

“The best thing I can say is no one should grow up with eight older sisters,” John said. He remembers changing cloth diapers at age 6, before he had mastered those huge safety pins.

“We all became pretty self-sufficient early,” he said.

It was always about family. Regular gatherings at the farm would bring the many siblings back together. The farm has been in the family since 1856. It was the place to reunite when their father still lived there. John, who lives in Fond du Lac, and one of his brothers own the farm and lease out the land now so it can continue to be that family center.

The Steiner Family Scholarship Fund – offering a one-time scholarship of  $2,000 for a student graduating from New Holstein and $1,000 scholarship award for a student from Chilton High School – became another force for keeping in touch. It was established in 2004.

They added to the fund with family events. An annual Milwaukee Brewers game offered tickets priced at whatever the siblings wanted to donate. Holiday raffles would raise money for the fund based on brothers and sisters making or baking something or bidding on an item. They’ve even used payroll deduction.

With the Brewer game not a possibility this year, the family got together via Zoom to discuss an alternative plan. They ended up raising more than $10,000 for the Steiner Family Charitable Fund, a separate fund they established in 2016 to support causes important to their parents — such as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul — as well as charities in the cities where they now live.

“We really wanted to honor our parents and set up a fund while they were still alive,” John said.

Jeanette died in 2014 at age 81 and Leo in 2016 at age 89.

Like the family, John wants the fund to keep on growing.

If you want help organizing charitable giving for your family, whatever its size, contact the Community Foundation at 920.702.7622.


2 Responses to Giving to honor parents brings large family closer

  • Patty Haase says:

    One of my best friends is in this family of 16 kids. The childhood stories live on with the kids still getting together for trips, holidays, Packer games or whatever. Now with kids, grandkids and great grandkids of their own, they are a large group of great people.

    1. Thank you for sharing! They sure are a great, generous family.

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