Norman W. Steele, Jr.

1925 – 1997
Submitted by Robert H. Long

Norm was born and raised in Seattle, WA, living in the Green Lake area. He was known to his family as “Bill”, but to his friends and associates he was “Norm”. In WWII he served in the US Army, mostly in Australia. Because of his typing skills and attention to detail he was made a Company Clerk and never saw combat. After the war he attended the University of Washington, graduating in 1950 with a BS in Chemical Engineering. His entire working career was spent with The Boeing Company, working on Materials and Processes in the Quality Assurance Research Branch of the Commercial Airplane Company in Renton.

Norm’s many hobbies were legendary. In addition to his well known interests inthe Lapidary field such as minerology, mineral specimen collecting, rockhounding, and faceting, he was also an avid stereo photographer and RV’er. He went on many field trips in his RV, towing a Jeep for the off-road adventures. He usually returned home with the Jeep loaded with rocks he had collected. These ended up filling his basement. He belonged to many lapidary clubs in the Seattle area, including the Boeing Minerological Society, the North Seattle Faceting Club, and was the kingpin of the Seattle Faceting Club. In 1967 he began publishing the Seattle Facetor’s Design Notes, which he distributed free of charge to all the clubs. About this same time he began his database of published facet designs using a numbering system which was an extension of the GIA shape classification system and a card file database. He also took the GIA courses and was a Graduate Gemologist.

Norm’s faceting machine was a very early model Fac-Ette. (Much later, Phil Bean, the owner of the Fac-Ette Manufacuring Co. in Seattle, at no charge swapped a new machine with electronic stop for Norm’s old machine.) Norm was also very active in judging faceting and other mineralogy displays at shows. He also had a display case of his own in every show.

In 1978, in partnership with Bob Long, they formed the Seattle Faceting Books company to write, publish, and distribute the Facet Design Series of books. This was a synergistic relationsship between two totally dissimilar persons. Norm liked the detail aspects of producing copy for the printing press. He also had a geometric approach to the mathematics of facet design. Bob Long, on the other hand, took an algebraic approach to facet design. Bob is more of a concept person and was more than happy to leave the details to Norm for the finishing touches. Once they had derived an exact way of doing 3-D facet design, Norm had almost a compulsion to place an exact 3-D version of all published designs in his database. In the early days, this presented a huge problem, since published designs generally consisted of two incompatible versions of the design, the picture and the cutting instructions. This database of designs forms the data files of DataVue.

Later in life, Norm became ill with a form of leukemia known as Hairy Cell Leukemia. This forced him to slow down to where he was only doing the work of two or three persons in contrast to his younger days when he seemed to be able to take on the work of six guys. He had chemotherapy which seemed to cure the leukemia, but the side effects took their toll on his heart and other organs. His spleen was enlarged to the size of a soccer ball and had to be removed. He was finally hospitalized. He insisted on getting up and going to a club meeting one night because he was scheduled to do the program, but the doctors restrained him. He died in 1997 at the age of 72.

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