Philip S. Steel III


Philip S. Steel III, 83, artist, musician, architect, Navy officer, of Southwest Harbor, passed away from melanoma complications on March 26, 2018, in Bar Harbor. He is survived by his wife, Joan C. Steel, children and grandchildren.

Born Nov. 1, 1934, in Lansdowne, Pa., the only child of artists Robert Steel, an opera singer, and Beryl Van Horn Steel, a leading lady in New York’s musical theater.

Phil attended Pennsylvania State University on an ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1957 with a degree in architecture. Entering the U.S. Navy as an ensign, he was assigned to a destroyer sailing to Samoa and found the engine room the perfect place to teach himself the concertina. He later completed his service as a lieutenant commander in the Navy reserves as an architect.

In 1957, Phil married Sheridan Foxall Jones of West Chester, Pa. They had four children. After earning a master’s degree in architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, he established his own architecture firm in Chester County, outside Philadelphia. His work can be seen in residential and commercial projects up and down the Eastern Seaboard. He thought of architecture as “the epitome of art and one of its most difficult forms.”

Phil and Sheridan divorced, and in 1979 Phil married Joan Crawford. They wintered in Palm Beach and summered in Bar Harbor, sailing their 38-foot Morgan up and down the intercostal with side trips to the Bahamas and the Keys with friends and family. Together they created Steel Design & Associates — an architectural and interior design firm.

Years later he combined his love of the sea, thrill of sailing, and a respect for those who worked tirelessly in the fishing industry and started painting again in earnest. “I’ve always admired the water’s moods and the people whose lives are affected by the sea, the wind, and the currents.”

In 2005, Phil and Joan opened the Salty Dog Gallery in Southwest Harbor, which became the town’s unofficial artist collective. In addition to Phil’s paintings, the Salty Dog featured the art of local and upcoming artists — many of them Phil’s students. In the evenings, the music became the art — Phil’s other passion. With his button accordion always at hand, Phil welcomed any and all to share their passion for music, the visual arts, and a good glass of wine.

Phil is survived by his soul mate and best friend, Joan C. Steel, and their blended family. Children, Philip (Flip), Eric, Robert Steel, Amy Steel Pulitzer, Howard and Chanler Sparler; and grandchildren Tyler and Benjamin Steel, Emma and Charlotte Pulitzer, Alexander and Dalton Steel, Erin Steel Pirklbauer, Grace and Hunter Steel, Joshua, Madsen, Kaela, Brandon, Jordan and Morgan Sparler.

A celebration of Phil’s colorful life will be held on Saturday, June 23, 2-5 p.m. at The Causeway Club’s Red Barn in Southwest Harbor. Phil’s band mates from The Common Good Band will play his favorites and guide friends and family in a giant, musical toast in his honor.

Special thanks to Sonogee Rehab, Beacon Hospice and all the musicians who serenaded him in those last toe taps and a final hallelujah, as well as the wonderful artist/nurse who set him free with, “It’s OK; let go and paint the sky.” In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Common Good

Know when to pay your respects.