The passing of longtime Chamber of Commerce President Charles P. Steiner was greeted with sadness by many in the Schenectady region and beyond.
But it also brought to the surface many anecdotes and fond memories of an endearing character whose irrepressible good nature and unflagging devotion to his community left a lasting impression and an outsized impact on it.
Here are some favorite Chuck Steiner memories:
Chuck was always focused on the greater good, and his role in bringing the Albany-Colonie, and Schenectady chambers together is evidence of the all-embracing vision he brought to our region. It took a special kind of leader to be able to create something more than the sum of its parts, too. His authenticity really set him apart. When I became President and CEO at MVP, he was one of the first people to reach out to me -- and I think he was almost as excited as I was! That was Chuck, and I am grateful to have known him.
—Denise Gonick, president and CEO, MVP Health Care
Chuck was a snappy dresser. He was always decked out in a nice suit and tie everywhere he went. He had that great Chuck smile as he bounded into the room, especially on sunny days, which of course he called “Chamber of Commerce Days.”
While Chuck always looked great, his cars were another matter. He drove an old Buick and an even older Chevy van and fearlessly took them on long road trips. We talked about this once and he told me that when he worked in western New York he often visited the large General Motors plants in Tonawanda and Lockport that made engines and air conditioning systems. Chuck told the employees that he would buy GM cars with the parts they made and drive them forever. And he did so. Above all else, Chuck was loyal.
—Ray Gillen, chairman, Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority
I met Chuck Steiner when he first came to Schenectady. He was one of the first people to encourage me to stay in Schenectady and invest in the future. He made the right recommendations to me. Look at Schenectady and Transfinder and the BizLab now!!! He will be missed.
— Antonio Civitella, CEO, Transfinder
Chuck (left) with Marie DeBrocky, chairman of the Upper Union Street Improvement District, and Jim Connolly, chairman of the board of the Chamber of Schenectady County, in 2015 at a Chamber luncheon at Riverstone Manor in Glenville on April 30, 2015. (Photo: Marc Schultz)
I will always remember hanging out on the reviewing stand of the annual Gazette Holiday Parade with Chuck. Regardless of the weather, he was the “host with the most,” sporting a black cowboy hat atop that characteristic grin of his. And he’d keep us warm throughout the evening with his good humor. He took genuine delight in viewing the floats and other parade entries and relished seeing so many friends and neighbors gather on the streets of downtown Schenectady to enjoy the annual tradition that celebrates the good cheer of the season.
—Mona Golub, Golub Corporation
It is with sadness that we recognize Chuck’s passing, but with memories of an inspirational leader of great character who truly made a difference in and for our Community. Charles P. Steiner will be thought of as we knew him to be, as Chuck:
C: Committed to and a passion for making our Community a greater place
H: Honest and genuine in his inspirational leadership
U: Unwavering focus on the promotion and execution of our Community’s economic vision
C: Confident in our collective ability to instill pride in our Community
K: Kind, generous, and humble always setting by example, offering our Community the best of himself
Chuck will be truly remembered as a great Community leader.
—Howard S. Foote, Office Managing Partner, UHY LLP
Chuck was always focused on the greater good . . . His authenticity really set him apart.
I was fortunate enough to meet Chuck through the Chamber’s YPN Mentorship program when we were paired together in 2015. Prior to the program, I had never met Chuck, but by the end of our first meeting I felt like I had known him for my entire life. Chuck not only cared about my professional career, he genuinely cared about me as an individual and my family. Each meeting that we had was better than the last, and I always left more motivated and ready to conquer the world because of his insight and willingness to help others. No meeting was complete with a laugh.
—Joseph Watroba, accountant, UHY Advisors
What I remember most about Chuck Steiner was his can-do positive attitude. In 2006 there were only a handful of restaurants in Schenectady and we were trying to promote Schenectady as a restaurant destination. A group of us had an idea about starting a Restaurant Week locally. We reached out to several Downtown organizations for help, but they were too busy. We reached out to Chuck Steiner, he made the time, pulled a team together, and with his guidance, we got it done. Twelve years later it is one of the most successful events for Schenectady County and its Community Partners. Thanks Chuck!
—Jeff McDonald, owner, The Stockade Inn
Chuck dedicates the Peace Garden in Riverside Park in the Stockade in Schenectady with Donna Gignone on Oct. 4, 2016 (Photo: Peter R. Barber)
In 2005 Chuck headed up the Schenectady Military Affairs Committee tasked with promoting the importance of Stratton Air National Guard Base during the Government’s Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) evaluation. At the time I was interning at the Chamber. One month before the BRAC Committee was to release their results I received a call from Chuck asking if I had any interest taking a local’s private jet to Buffalo to support Hillary Clinton on behalf of New York’s military. It was both our first times on a private plane. When we got off the plane Chuck said to me comically “Look, Hillary’s plane has propellers.”
—Christopher R. Wallin, city engineer, Schenectady
When the idea was proposed to Chuck for statues to be erected of Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz, arguably two of the most important people who influenced the world about the miracle of electricity, he was at once exuberant. Through his encouragement, counsel and contacts, Chuck demonstrated leadership which allowed for the statues to be erected and fully paid from conception to unveiling within nine months. His same spirit which eschewed asking for funds from our government, but rather turning to the business community, was the exact same spirit that brought the Edison Electric Works here over a century ago.
—Brian H. Merriam, President, Merriam Insurance Agency
We mourn the loss of a good friend to the College and community, and we keep his family in our prayers.
Chuck Steiner and I crashed a private party. The story begins with Chuck and I entering Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark to join local Chamber executives at a baseball game at our national conference. We were talking, laughing and wandering to find our seats. We came upon a park employee. He saw our badges and asked if we were with ACCE. When we said yes, he invited us into a private suite. We enjoyed free food and drink from air-conditioned front-row seats. Meanwhile, those we were supposed to meet were outside with warm beer and cold hot dogs.
—Todd L. Shimkus, president, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
Though many people know Chuck as a passionate supporter of Capital Region businesses, he was at the very core a community enthusiast. He was a valued partner and friend who approached everything with the wise sensibility of a businessman, coupled with a caring and generous heart. Chuck had the rare gift of taking some of the most grandiose visions for our community and applying the fortitude to bring those ideas to reality. His legacy lives on in all of us who call the Capital Region home. The SI Group family extends their thoughts and prayers to Chuck’s family.
—Wallace Graham, chairman, and Frank Bozich, president and CEO, The SI Group
Chuck Steiner was one of the first to greet me when I assumed the presidency at Union College in 2006. His innate friendliness and his recollection of his own transition here made me feel part of Schenectady. Could we have asked for anyone better suited to lead the Chamber or represent Schenectady? When Union received good news, we could count on Chuck to call or email. When we dedicated a Habitat for Humanity home, Chuck welcomed the new family and thanked the Union faculty, staff and students who helped with the project. When Union’s men’s ice hockey team won a national championship, Chuck enthusiastically organized a parade that celebrated not just a team victory, but the strong support of a community that Chuck helped create. We mourn the loss of a good friend to the College and community, and we keep his family in our prayers.
— Stephen C. Ainlay, president, Union College
Chuck looks over fresh jars of pizza sauce that Garry McKay is packing during a tour of the Casa Visco plant in Rotterdam. (Photo: Marc Schultz)
Several years ago I walked in the Chamber office to introduce myself. It was one of my first days on the job as a business liaison for a local non-profit. I was nervous, in my mid 20s, no experience. Chuck came out to chat and made me feel like a million bucks. I saw him weeks later at an event. I was speaking with one of my supervisors and Chuck came over to give me a compliment. Great guy, sorry to his family and friends.
Chuck Steiner had a special talent for unlocking the American dream for the Schenectady community and all across the Capital Region. His tireless work helped create countless jobs and local opportunity for many. On more than one occasion, he helped me set up small business visits and often joined as we met with local owners and other business leaders. He was quick with a smile and was never happier than when he was talking about his family, especially his grandchildren.
Chuck was renowned for his civic leadership. Together with his wonderful wife Marcy, he worked tirelessly to move our community forward. Their work together strengthened the fabric of our greater Capital Region. I want to offer Marcy and their entire family my deepest condolences. My staff and I have truly loved working with Chuck and will miss him tremendously. He leaves us with a spirit of hope.
—U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam
I think I loved Chuck because of the way he loved Marcy and together how they loved all of us.
Schenectady and the entire Capital Region lost a true champion for small businesses and jobs with the news of the passing of Chuck Steiner, the president of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce. Chuck was a very strong advocate for promoting and growing the small businesses that create most of the jobs in our economy. He loved our community and he always made ribbon cuttings for small businesses fun and exciting. My deepest condolences go out to his family, the staff at the Capital Region Chamber, and to the many friends he has made here in the Capital Region.
—State Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville
When it came to Union College hockey, there was no more ardent fan than Chuck Steiner. My favorite memory of working with Chuck is in collaborating with him to spearhead the parade and City Hall ceremony to celebrate the Dutchmen’s improbable national championship in 2014. I vividly remember getting a call from Chuck on Sunday morning after Union had captured the championship the previous evening. He said, “We need to get moving on a victory parade. Let’s start right now by meeting the team when they return home to the arena this afternoon to get this in motion.” And off we went to meet the administrators, coaches and players, which began a period of ’round the clock work and effort to organize a magnificent victory celebration within a matter of days.
But Chuck always shied away from taking credit. When it came to assembling the list of speakers at City Hall, Chuck demurred and said this was a time for the true heroes to shine — the players, coaches and sponsors who had made this celebration possible even though he had been at the forefront of organizing and producing the festivities.
At the end of a very successful afternoon, I was eyeing a championship Union College sweatshirt that one of the vendors was selling. Chuck came over and said, “You’d look good in that and you deserve it.” I looked at him sheepishly and said I didn’t have any cash on me. Chuck didn’t hesitate and I was soon sporting the sweatshirt. Chuck was the kind of gentleman who would give you the shirt off his back or buy you one off the rack! I will always remember his thoughtful and kind-hearted nature.
—Mark Bardack, Ed Lewi Associates
Chuck Steiner, left, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Mohawk Honda Collision Center on Route 50 on Dec.15, 2015. (Photo: Marc Schultz)
It was in the middle of the school year in second grade when I first met Chuck Steiner. The teacher selected the desk right next to mine and asked this shy, dark curly haired young boy from Neenah, Wisconsin, to take a seat. “Would you like to borrow my crayons?” I asked. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. We continued to be best pals throughout grade school and high school. going to church together, confirmation classes, youth group. The whole thing. My mother would say that Chuck got off the bus at my house more often than he did at his own. Though college took us to different states, we stayed connected. We each married and our spouses soon understood the incredible friendship that Chuck and I shared. Even as our families grew — Chuck in Lewiston, New York, and me in Illinois, then Ohio — we stayed connected. Our families shared the same interests. We boated on the Niagara River and at Lake Chautauqua together. Now, Chuck’s son, Matthew, and my daughter, Allison, are carrying on the friendship tradition.
—Deby Lexow, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
If you Google the word 'mensch,' Chuck’s picture should be the first thing you see.
I first met Chuck when he stayed at the Glen Sanders Mansion for his three-day interview for the position with the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce. Every morning and night during those three days we would get together. In the evening, we would sit and review the happenings of his day. I really got to know Chuck as a person. Chuck had spoken about the hard decision it would be to relocate to the Capital Region, holding such strong ties to Niagara Falls. I made a joke out of it and said, “Chuck, I will make it easy for you. I will send out three catering trucks, pack you up and have you back here all in the same day.” We both laughed. On the last day, after Chuck returned home, I met with a few of the people on the selection committee at the bar. Everyone seemed to enjoy Chuck. He was exactly what we needed at the time in Schenectady. He called me the following week and said he had accepted the job.
I knew at that very moment that at some point I would owe Chuck big time. He was in my office his first week saying “I need you to be on the board.” I felt like I had no choice but to say yes. Two years later, he came to me again saying “I need you to chair the board,” which I did for a six-year period.
I had many great years knowing Chuck, and in turn him knowing the Mazzone family, through multiple events, and as a friend. Chuck always addressed me as “boss.” He will be terribly missed not only by myself but the whole Capital Region. I was lucky to call him a friend and partner in the community.
—Angelo Mazzone Mazzone Hospitality
My favorite memory of Chuck is really the Chuck and Marcy duo. Whenever I would think of Chuck I would think of Marcy, and whenever I would think of Marcy I would think of Chuck. I think I loved Chuck because of the way he loved Marcy and together how they loved all of us. They loved Buffalo and then they came to love the Capital Region. That solid duo is what I’ll always remember. It’s unique and I was always grateful for it. Of course I liked the smirk and the welcoming arm Chuck extended over my shoulder every time we saw each other.
—Paul Milton, president and CEO, Ellis Medicine
I was the chairman of the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce for three years, working very closely with Chuck. He was the nicest, most wonderful and professional leader I’ve ever worked with. I was always amazed how much he got out of his relatively small staff. Like me, no one could say no to Chuck. He had this way about him where you never wanted to let him down. When I first met him, I thought he was so serious, but it turns out he had a great sense of humor and was a lot of fun. He had such a passion for the Chamber, and this was evident in how he carried out his day-to-day interactions with his staff and the community at large. I will miss Chuck, and he will always be in my thoughts.
According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of “The Joys of Yiddish,” a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being a real mensch is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.” The term is used as a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual’s qualities. If you Google the word “mensch,” Chuck’s picture should be the first thing you see.
—Ray Bleser, Northeastern Fine Jewelry