Our beautiful mother, Vivian Margaret Steele Crouse, passed away peacefully on July 29, 2021. She left us knowing fully how much every one of her daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren adored her.
Born on December 1, 1931 in Augusta, Georgia, to Clarence Steele and Vivian Walton Steele during the Depression, Vivian grew up during WWII. Her early life was not an easy one, but through the years, she focused her memories on the joyful times of her childhood. One special memory she recalled often was when her family lived in an apartment in what was once a mansion in Atlanta. (She loved to tell the stories about its secret passageways and a floor tiled in pennies!) She also remembered well and often the many people who were kind to her throughout her childhood.
She moved with her mother to Baltimore, where she attended junior high and high school. Ralph Lincoln Rigdon became Vivian's stepfather during those years, as well. Vivian was an athlete and hard worker in high school. While maintaining excellent grades, she played basketball and volleyball and worked part-time. She met the love of her life, Olson Crouse, after arriving in Baltimore, and they were married right after high school.
Vivian and Olson worked hard, saved their pennies, bought a home, and soon welcomed three daughters: Vivian, Patty, and Anita. They had a lively, happy home filled with music and laughter. When eldest daughter Vivian was just about ready to go to college, they added a fourth daughter, Amy, to the brood. So, Viv and Olson had children in their home for 36 years.
Vivian was named after her mother, who was an incredibly strong and resilient woman. Our mom inherited all of her own mother's best qualities. They were both dauntless, creative, and intrepid.
If there was something Vivian wanted, she figured out how to make it, do it, or learn it. Vivian was an entrepreneur, owning two businesses. She co-founded a kindergarten and a preschool to serve the needs of her community. She was an extremely talented seamstress, which was the focus of the businesses she owned. She served as a long-term substitute teacher several times, an expression of her love and care for children as well as her value of education. She also taught sewing at senior centers for many years. As you might imagine, she had a deep well of patience that she employed in everything she did professionally and personally.
Vivian's life was grounded in her faith and life within a faith community, where she surrounded herself with others seeking a deep relationship with God. She read, studied, worshipped, led, and socialized at Brooklyn Heights United Methodist Church until her illness made it necessary to live with one of her daughters, and even then, she was active in two new churches late in her life. Our mom was always open to spiritual growth and deeper understandings of grace, making her a woman whose faith never grew stale and continually allowed her to question and hone her beliefs to become more like Christ, whom she understood to be filled with grace and compassion.
Vivian spent the last 30 years battling Primary Lateral Sclerosis, a rare neurological disease. As with most things in her life, she met the challenges it brought with grace and humor. She didn't let it stop her from doing the things she loved with the people she loved.
All four of us have learned from our mom the value of an education and of a decent vocabulary (often for the purpose of winning at Scrabble). She taught us perseverance. We learned from her how to plan and entertain (often large crowds). But best of all, we learned from Vivian how to be the kind of mothers who love unconditionally.
Vivian was predeceased by her husband, Olson; her brothers Errell and Thomas Chandler Steele, and Ralph Rigdon; and her son-in-law Glen Stonebraker. Our mom cherished our husbands and our children and grandchildren, and our children's loves, too. She is survived by Vivian and Richard McCarthy, Erin and Kevin Speak, Dennis, Annie-Laurie, Thomas and Nathan McCarthy; Patty and Stephen Hutton, Matthew Gillam, Sam and Liz Gillam, Peter Gillam, Meghan Wise and son Parker; Shawn, Preaw, Brady, and Kiley Hutton; Alex, Holly, Reagan Fritz and Xander Hutton; Anita Stonebraker and Jim Piateski, Gareth Stonebraker and Sarah Marston, Gabriel and Rebecca Stonebraker, Annelise Stonebraker and Solen LeGall, Laurel Stonebraker and Marcus Feldman, and Audrey Stonebraker; Amy Crouse-Powers and Jonathan, Carter and Jackson Powers and Mackenzie Crowner. She is survived by her sister, Linda Steele, and numerous nieces and nephews in Georgia and South Carolina: Thomas Steele, Howard Steele, Marie Steele Williams, Juli Steele Lloyd, Chip Steele, the late Wendy Clay Kelly, and Tracy Landrum. Vivian was loved by her larger family, as well: the late Linette and Kimsey Fox, and Kimzey and Susan Fox; Ugie and the late Milton Pardoe, and Marty and the late Jenny Pardoe, and Kenneth and Beth Pardoe; Eldon and Margie Crouse, and Tami and Bob Dishman.
A Memorial Service for Mrs. Crouse will be held at Brooklyn Community United Methodist Church, 110 Townsend Ave., Baltimore 21225 on Sunday, October 24th at 1 PM . The service will be livestreamed via Zoom at this link.
Zoom Meeting ID 937 8963 7497
Call-In Number 301.715.8592