Richard Steinke, an advocate for special-needs students who served as the state’s deputy director of special education, died Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of 75.
In a statement, Mr. Steinke’s daughter, Renee Keats, wrote that Mr. Steinke died at his home in Tierra Verde, Florida.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Steinke was raised in Annapolis after his father moved to the area as part of his Naval service.
Mr. Steinke graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1963 and earned his bachelor’s degree from then-Towson State in 1968. He earned a master’s degree in special education from then-Loyola College in 1974.
In 1973, he became a supervisor for special education placements in nonpublic schools for the state’s Department of Education.
That same year, the 28-year-old Mr. Steinke was named the director of the Harford Center, a day care program run from a former Methodist church in Bel Air that looked to help special-needs students with their educational needs.
Mr. Steinke was quoted in a Sun article in 1973 saying he’d encountered mental illness during his travels with the Navy.
“I was exposed to it in other military families,” he said, adding that “resources available to such families then were not always what they should have been.”
Mr. Steinke married his wife, Barbara Fisher, in 1978, and the two built Fisher Real Estate, which rented properties in Baltimore and Lewes, Delaware, before they sold the business in 2007. Ms. Steinke died in 2017.
According to Ms. Keats, Mr. Steinke enjoyed a 34-year career as a state employee with the education department, eventually being appointed as the deputy state superintendent of special education by Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.
He retired as the deputy superintendent for school improvement in 2007.
Ms. Keats wrote that her father was “the ultimate ‘Renaissance man’ ” who “was a gifted athlete, sailor and golfer and all-star lacrosse player.”
He lived in Baltimore for more than 50 years before moving to Florida in 2015.
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Zachary Crosby, Mr. Steinke’s eldest grandson, wrote in an email that his grandfather “helped us seek out every possible opportunity to further ourselves intellectually.”
“He was such a character, constantly telling stories in different voices and flailing his hands around, sincerely acting out the roles,” Mr. Crosby wrote. “If you were at dinner or a party with him, all eyes were on him.”
“For me personally he was supportive when I had an unexpected child and from the day my daughter was born to the day he passed he did everything he could to make sure we could thrive,” he wrote.
Memorial services for Mr. Steinke will be held at a future date.
He is survived by four daughters: Lynn Radbill Crosby of Towson; Rachel Steinke Bethard of Plains, Kansas; Renee Radbill Keats of Highland Park, Illinois, and Gretchen Steinke Micio of Knoxville, Tennessee; five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.