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Dale Marriott Steffensen

April 17, 1922 ~ July 8, 2018 (age 96)

Dale Marriott Steffensen, 96, beloved husband of Margaret Steffensen, died July 8, 2018 in Champaign-Urbana after a long decline resulting from a serious fall in 2016. He was a professor at the University of Illinois and retired in 1992.

On August 17, 1970 Dale married Margaret Ann Siebrecht in Urbana, she survives.

He is survived by two children, Christine Volk-Olejniczak of Santa Monica, CA and Brian Steffensen of Orange, CA. Also surviving is a step daughter, Orsa Moldauer of Fort Collins, CO, and grandchildren; Leah, Sorcha, Yul and Sundo Moldauer; Erica (Walter) Miramontes and a great-grandson, Gavin Miramontes.

He was preceded in death by his son Eric Steffensen who died in 1970 and his brother Kearney Steffensen.

He was the son of Kearney Krogh and Winifred Marriott Steffensen. His mother’s family had left Navoo and traveled west by wagon train, organized by his great grandfather Marriott, in the mid-1880s. His paternal great grandparents immigrated from Norway.

Dale was a small baby born prematurely at home in Salt Lake City on April 17, 1922 and because the nursery was not prepared he slept his first few nights in a dresser drawer lined with sheepskin from his grandfather’s ranch. He was a boy who loved mountains and was an active hiker and skier (until a few weeks short of 90). At 13 he and his mother moved to California, where he became active in Sea Scouts sponsored by the Coast Guard. He graduated from high school with some college credits at the beginning of WWII. His love of the sea led him to join the Coast Guard, and he served in the Pacific until the end of WWII.

After the war, Dale earned a Master’s degree on the GI Bill from UCLA in 1948. During the summer, he supported himself as a life guard for the City of L.A. Beaches.

He earned his Doctorate from Berkeley in 1952, then joined Brookhaven National Laboratory. His research interest was the nuclear structure of the chromosome and the processes of replication, breakage and repair. In one project, he calculated the mortality resulting from nuclear radiation; his results, sadly, were supported by the death rate in Japan in the years after WWII.

In 1961, wishing to teach in addition to conducting research, Dale joined the University of Illinois faculty. His research as a cytogeneticist continued and involved a variety of organisms, from corn and orchids to fruit flies and humans. He spent one sabbatical in Italy and another in Australia. In 1992, he made his last professional trip to Pakistan, where he consulted with a former student who was developing a corn variety that would be productive in the short, cold growing seasons of the Hindu Kush Mountains.

Dale and his wife established The Eric Show, a juried art exhibit for high school students that runs for three weeks in March at the Illini Union. This has been a meaningful remembrance of Eric for the family and a stimulus for young artists. In his retirement, Dale enjoyed gardening, pursuing his hobbies, and visiting countries he had not been to before or those he especially loved. He and his wife enjoyed many events at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Memorials may be made to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 South Goodwin, Urbana, IL 61801; or to 40 North 88 West, 17 Taylor Street, Champaign, IL 61820 (for the Eric Show). Memorial arrangements are incomplete at Renner-Wikoff Chapel, 1900 S. Philo Rd, Urbana. Condolences may be offered at


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