Guilderland - ROBERT BLAINE STEALEY, 72, of Guilderland, passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 15, 2023 with his beloved family by his side following his third and valiant battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Words are an insufficient device to express the greatness of this man. It’s quite a bit like trying to travel to the moon on a balloon; it will get you going in the right direction but it won’t transport you to the place where you will feel the grandeur of those that experienced the real McCoy. The following is a hopeless attempt to try to capture a fragment of who Robert was and what he meant to so many.
Robert Stealey was a friend, as evidenced by the sheer number of them he had. One should consider themselves luckier than most to have one friend with devotion so deep that they would walk across broken glass for them. Bob had these kinds of friends in spades. Several reasons caused so many people to be drawn to him. He had a highly tuned sense of humor; and every time spent with Bob was time spent laughing. No matter the time, place or situation, he could – and did – cut tension and gloom with a perfectly placed one-liner, and could make a fun and joyous time even more so with one quick-witted joke. He was always up for a laugh, but he wasn’t a fool – he was a man that seldom wasted words, which made what he said meaningful and often hilarious.
Bob was also game for adventure, fun and enjoying life. Equally at ease with both prince and pauper, he could navigate himself through any room and find friends old and new. His spontaneity and zest for life led him to fly a paraglider, bomb down a mountain in a bobsled, race a car on a dirt track (trading paint with all comers), ride through the desert on horseback, skim across the water in a fan boat, spend a night on a tour bus with the King of Blues, catch races from Daytona to Dover and all points in between, and party backstage with a room full of 40 Elvises. His spirit was untamed and he was a ball to be around.
But what made him a great friend was that – in high or low tide – he was always ready to lend a helping hand and always doubled-back for a friend. As Billy and Pam Newcomb, Howard and Joan Gage, Billy and Annie Ward, Tom and Nicole Funk and Michael and Darlene Leto (some of those deeply devoted people referenced above) would no doubt tell you, what drew them to and kept them close was that Robert Stealey was the genuine article.
Robert Stealey was a United States Marine. “The second-best decision I ever made” he would often say about joining the tip of the spear. Such was his unyielding modesty. The full story is that on his 18th birthday, Robert Stealey walked into a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office and enlisted. The year was 1968. And, if you are not in awe of that statement, you must immediately open a history book and find out why you should be.
To say that Bob was proud of his service is the biggest understatement ever uttered by man. He was a U.S. Marine to his bones. Take a minute and picture him; his tall lean frame standing on the deck of a ship, the palm trees waving behind him as he cut through the crystal blue waters of Subic Bay with the wind in his hair, ocean mist in his face and the expanse of the Pacific in front of him. In those moments, he no doubt felt free and in his proper place.
Robert embodied the motto “Semper Fidelis” for all the years following his formal service with the Corps. Never without his Marine Corps apparel, marching alongside his brothers in arms at every parade, organizing annual fund raising golf tournaments to benefit the Marine Corps League (complete with his signature grin when his family swept the awards), and standing tall every holiday season collecting Toys for Tots. His service and devotion was recognized by his fellow Marines when they bestowed upon him the great honor of naming him Commandant of the Marine Corps League. If you knew Bob, you understood the source of his endless pride for the Corps and his fellow servicemen; he never knew a stranger – that is true – but he would cross a room to speak with a Marine.
Robert Stealey was a grandfather. Robert relished every opportunity he had to spend time with his grandchildren, Jordan, Jacob, Hunter, Madison, Derek, Isabella, Charles, and Daniel. He deeply loved them all, and never missed a chance to make them feel special or discretely drop a key piece of well-needed advice. He showed them how much he loved them through his actions, dropping everything with immediacy at an invite to do anything with them, from bug-hunting to sleigh riding. The Marine with a tender touch when they were babies became a source of confidence as they got older and participated in all manner of athletics and activities. Each one of his grandchildren could count on the fact that – regardless of whether they were in triumph or defeat – they could look out from the court, the gridiron, the diamond, the stage, the track, the pitch, the pool or the mat and quickly locate that Marine Corps baseball cap and the piercing steal blue eyes beneath the brim watching them, to be followed not with a critique or a pointer but with a word of encouragement and a reminder of how proud he was of them.
And as wonderful he was as a grandfather to his grandchildren, he was equally as adept at being a grandfather for his children. He never interfered with parenting decisions – even if he would have done different – but was always intently observing and quietly letting his children know that they were “doing a good job” raising their kids.
Robert Stealey was a father. Bob did a great many things greatly, but his crowning achievement was – with the aid of his beloved Sandra – raising two tough and fidelitous men and three formidable and resilient women. Times were tough, but Robert, Kelly, Daniel, Amymarie and Casey, had a tenacious Marine with an indominable will to protect and provide for them. He worked hard for his family, often holding three jobs at a time, driving a truck as a card-carrying Teamster, driving a school bus and operating his hot dog cart at the Empire State Plaza. Driving those lonely midnight miles – with a truck filled with everything from paper products to produce – through the North Country, likely having nothing to listen to but the static from a radio picking up the outer-reach of the local station’s signals, he no doubt persevered (knowing he had two more shifts to go) with thoughts of his wife and five babies sleeping soundly and peacefully at home without a worry in the world that what must be taken care of, would be. And in between those three jobs, he was rushing home to grab the equipment bag for a night of coaching baseball and softball or grabbing a shirt and tie to watch their concerts from the back of the room. He hustled for his family to the point of backbreaking exhaustion.
Every man thinks his burden is the heaviest, but Bob’s was heavier than most. He would have had every justification to – just once – utter a complaint or cry “woe is me”, but he never did. Even at the end, as he did from the start, if any of his children called him for help, they wouldn’t be able to finish explaining what they needed help with before he was already on his way.
Bob might not have given his kids every thing, but he gave them everything. He was proud of and deeply loved each of them. And he made their spouses feel like they were his own; truly.
Robert Stealey was also a prolific nick-namer. And if he gave you one, it was – generally speaking – for his use alone, whether it be “King”, “Spike”, “Doodly”, “Just”, “Zip”, “Boomer”, “Turk”, “Squirt”, “Fred”, or … “Sam.”
Robert Stealey was a husband. The best decision he ever made, was that day in 1968 when he summoned the courage to stop and speak to Sandra Nantista as she walked to work. As sweet-hearted and strong a woman that has ever lived, they quickly formed a bond and fell in love. They married in 1969, just before he shipped out with the Marines. For the following 53 years, Robert and Sandra endured, together. Their relationship faced tribulation that would have shattered other unions a dozen times over, and yet, they persisted. Each one of those days of all those 53 years, Bob adored Sandy. Whatever she wanted to do, and whenever she wanted to do it, Bob was there and beside her. When she started volunteering with the Rescue Squad, Bob found a 25th hour in the day and drove the ambulance. He thought of her always, and she always had his back. Against the strongest possible headwinds they raised five loyal and dutiful children together and watched their wonderful grandchildren grow. He can rest knowing that all of them together should be able to fill the enormous shoes he left to make sure she is taken care of.
Finally, it bears mention that sometime between the evening of January 15, 2023 and the date of this writing St. Peter got to experience a bit of what we have lost. No doubt his jaw fell, leaving his mouth agape when Robert Stealey (the friend, the Marine, the grandfather, the father and the husband) approached the pearly gates and abruptly turned his back, planted his feet shoulder width apart, clasped his left wrist with his right hand in front of him and stood. The sentinel – deferring his eternal reward – on his final watch, until all his people are accounted for. If you know Robert Stealey, you know that is what he is doing right now.
Robert is survived by his beloved wife Sandra Stealey, his children Robert (Tammy) Stealey, Kelly (Matthew) Hug, Daniel (Tricia) Stealey, Amymarie DiSanto, Casey (Corey) Murach, his grandchildren Jordan, Hunter, Isabella and Charles Hug, Madison and Daniel Stealey, and Jacob and Derek DiSanto, as well as his step-grandchildren Michaela and Jacob Suits, his brothers Charles, Donald and Richard Stealey. Robert was predeceased by his parents, Charles Raymond and Alice Stealey, his brothers David and James Stealey and his sister Patricia Durand.
Calling hours will be held on Sunday January 22, 2023 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., at Cannon Funeral Home at 2020 Central Avenue, Colonie; at that time formal services will be presided over by the Marine Corps League and the Guilderland Elks. Funeral services will be Monday morning at 10:30 at the funeral home. Following the service, Robert will be properly interred with full military honors on at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.
Those desiring may make memorial contributions in his honor to the Lymphoma Research Foundation at lymphoma.org or to the Semper Fi & America’s Fund at thefund.org. To leave a message of condolence for the family, visit www.CannonFuneral.com