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Published: Thursday, 1/15/2009

Artist and cook founded shrine to end abortion

Steadman Steadman
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

Marvel Sally Steadman, 88, best known as the founder of an unofficial Catholic shrine that has drawn visitors from across the country, but who also was an artist and a cook who prepared meals for President Eisenhower, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

Mrs. Steadman of Oregon was admitted to hospice last month. The cause of death was not known, but likely was related to kidney failure, her daughter Barbara Brillhart said.

Mrs. Steadman founded Our Lady of Toledo, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Shrine in Oregon.

She said that visions of the Virgin Mary began appearing to her in 1992. One result is the shrine, which opened in 1997.

The mission of the shrine is to prevent abortions, Mrs. Steadman said in published interviews through the years. Last month, through her hand-picked successor Rick Hicks, Mrs. Steadman told The Blade that one goal was to open a medical center for pregnant women and thereby help prevent abortions.

"There's so much more to come in the future," Mrs. Steadman said then.

Only Mrs. Steadman saw the visions, but she shared public messages from the Virgin Mary to crowds at the shrine. She often said she did not know why God chose her for the visions. She said last month through Mr. Hicks that her determination might have had something to do with it.

"Maybe because of my stubborn nature," Mrs. Steadman said last month. "I've always finished what I've started, whatever the task or challenge. I've always had the determination and strong will to complete whatever I've started I've always prayed hard and played hard."

The Roman Catholic Church considered her visions to be private revelations and did not officially recognize the shrine.

The daughter of Laura and Alex St. John, Mrs. Steadman grew up in Jerusalem Township.

She was a graduate of Clay High School. She married Arthur Steadman and stayed home when the couple started a family.

Cooking for members of the exclusive Cedar Point Club, on the marshes of Jerusalem Township, was a family project through the years, her daughter said. President Dwight Eisenhower's first treasury secretary, George Humphrey, was a member of the club. Twice - in 1954 and 1958 - Mr. Eisenhower stayed over for some duck hunting.

According to a Nov. 11, 1954, account in the Toledo Times, Mr. Eisenhower was served the traditional fare for Cedar Point Club guests: roast duck, wild rice, filet of pickerel and lake perch salad, creamed onions, and pie. Mrs. Steadman and her husband were responsible.

Recounting that first visit, The Blade reported before the second stay: "Each night of his stay at the secluded hunting marsh Mr. Eisenhower sat down to a dinner of widgeon (baldpate duck) quick-broiled by Mrs. Arthur Steadman, the club's cook."

Their daughter recalled: "My mom and dad were really both honored."

Mrs. Steadman, who retired from the former Seaway Food Town, painted in oils and water colors. She traveled the world. She was devoted to her bichon frise, Snowflake.

"She took a great interest in whatever she did," her daughter said. "She loved to travel and had a great time with her family. She was a person who could always make the most out of everything she did.

"She had a great personality," her daughter said. "She was happy. She was always considerate of others. She enjoyed being with people. She was just a sweet person."

Her husband died in 1985.

Surviving are her daughters, Barbara Brillhart and Pamela Sullivan; sisters, Violet Cousino and Marie Meier; seven grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from noon until 9 p.m. today in the Hoeflinger-Bolander Funeral Home, Oregon, where there will be a recitation of the Rosary at 7 tonight. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in St. Ignatius Church, Oregon, where the body will be after 10 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to Our Lady of Toledo Shrine or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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