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Charles Paul “Chuck” Steuber

Bill Berne

As anyone who has had the pleasure of playing croquet or doing business with Chuck Steuber knows, he is a master of the old Epicurean maxim carpe diem — seize the day in both fields, his instinct for when to go for broke is exceptional.

Charles Paul Steuber was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the day after Christmas, 1920. He graduated from Riverside High School with a degree in science and majored in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, class of 1942. Following military service with the Army Engineers, he worked for the Union Carbide Corporation in various marketing, advertising, and sales positions. In 1949 he married the former Margaret Forsyth Morris.

On July 2, 1951 Steuber seized the day. Just as the first of his three children was born, “a good omen”, he started his own firm “The Steuber Company” with an initial capitalization of just $1,800. “Operations were somewhat limited at first” Steuber notes, “but after a few years I was able to pioneer the bulk shipment of chemicals in tankers.” As the business exploded, Steuber established marketing offices in New York and 15 cities overseas. In 1980, however, Steuber correctly sensed that the shipping end of the business was turning sour, and decided to liquidate. After several more years marketing operations were also  ended.

In 1980 Steuber was living in Pelham, N. Y. where he had an extensive lawn. He had enjoyed backyard croquet as a youth in Milwaukee and decided to set up a court in Pelham. At Abercrombie & Fitch in New York he bought the best available equipment (manufactured by a man named Jaques in England) and had it sent to his suburban home.

Opening the impressive wooden box he found, to his chagrin, that important parts of the  set were missing. There were only six wickets and a single stake. A quick call to A & F put matters straight — the store sent Steuber three more wickets and an additional stake to complete his set.

Shortly afterwards Steuber retired to Boca Raton, Florida, where the Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club had two lawns and a dedicated membership of almost 100. Enthusiasm was high, Steuber recalls. “People even lined up their cars and turned on their headlights so they could play at night.” Under the tutorship of Teddy Prentis, Steuber finally discovered the American six wicket game of croquet which he quickly mastered, lowering his handicap to 2 in a relatively short time. (He recently shot his age in golf and still goes downhill skiing at Aspen every year.) Among other tournaments feats Steuber has won the Masters (age 70 & over) four times and the Royal Palm Championship eight times in eleven tries.

In 1998, while serving on the board of The Croquet Foundation of America, Steuber lamented the foundation’s eviction from the PGA facilities in Palm Beach Gardens and their near loss of their new headquarters at Palm Beach Polo and Country Club for financial reasons, but even more than this, the  declining membership of the U.S. Croquet Association. “The job of the foundation was to promote the game,” he observes, “but it did not have the facilities to do that.” Once again, carpe diem.

Steuber put two million into the pot, began raising additional funds and started looking for a five acre piece of land in the Palm Beach area on which to build a headquarters building and perhaps three or four courts. Fortuitously, he came across a flat ten-acre parcel in West Palm Beach for  roughly the amount budgeted for land. Despite agonizing snafus, 12 full size courts were quickly built on the property and put into use by the clubs, individuals, and interested high school students who are given free lessons once a week. The USCA/CFA staff have moved into a converted construction building on the site. When finished, Steuber says there is every indication that the facility, now known familiarly as “Chuck’s Place” can make a financial contribution to the USCA.

The job is not finished, Steuber notes. Costs have risen and there are still funds that need to be raised. But as they say “if you build it, people will come”.

Charles Paul “Chuck” Steuber was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame in 2001.

Articles

Charles P. Steuber Obituary in New York Times

 

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