L.V. Steinhoff, My Dad

When I ran across one of my Dad’s scrapbooks, I was immediately drawn to this resolute-looking young man on his 20th birthday. He had a signature, even then, that was unique. I tried to emulate it for years, but never came close and eventually adopted an illegible scrawl to sign checks and memos.

Here’s a guy not even old enough to vote who is going to leave his literal mark on the world in the form of roads, bridges and airfields.

Who needs Tonka Trucks?

My Dad had the greatest toys in the world. While other kids were playing with toy trucks, I was riding on bulldozers, hanging onto the sides of draglines and sniffing the magic smell of freshly-turned earth and diesel fumes. When I catch a whiff of that half a century later, I can close my eyes and hear the clack-clack-clack of the steel tracks, the throaty roar when a diesel engine cranks up and the slippery sound steel cables make when they play out over massive pulleys.

OSHA would freak out today, but he gave me a basic set of safety tips and trusted me to have the good sense to follow them. When I hadn’t even reached double digits, let alone my teens, I separated debris from gravel going up conveyor belts, climbed up crane booms and crawled under railroad cars. (You can read about that here.)

The family was involved in his work

One of the first pictures in his Steinhoff, Kirkwood and Joiner scrapbook was two-year-old me holding a $4,219 check for road work done on Route SB in Reynolds County at Ellington, Mo.

Because Dad’s work took him all over the state, he was away from home a lot. When I was about a year old, Mother told him that this wasn’t going to work out unless we were able to be with him. They bought a small trailer that moved from job to job about every four months.

Mother was telling me this afternoon that it was a great life. She met lots of interesting people and made a lot of friends. We lived in the trailer until I started school. For years, the trailer would be what I’d turn in when teachers told us to draw a picture of our house.

Dad was a handsome man

For a man who spent most of his time pushing dirt around, he could put on a suit and look quite dapper. Here he is in 1960, posing with the family’s 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon that we took on our epic vacation to Florida.

Everybody got involved

No matter what the project, it was likely the whole family would be involved, even if it was (in my case) shooting photos of it.

Dad and Mother in the back yard in Cape

By the time I went away to college, Dad was starting to think about retirement. He and Mother bought a trailer over on Kentucky Lake. Dad got more and more involved in Scouting activities with my brothers and all of them traveled for fun, rather than to figure out where the next construction project was going to be.

No good thing lasts forever

Dad and his partner, Jim Kirkwood, were in the process of winding down the company in the summer of 1977. Dad was looking forward to his garden in Dutchtown and to spending time on Kentucky Lake.

I had postponed my summer vacation for a couple of weeks to get my first photo department budget done after being named Director of Photography at The Palm Beach Post. I was punching away at the adding machine late one night when I looked up to see Lila and John Lopinot, my best friend, standing in the doorway of my office.

I could tell from their expressions that this wasn’t a social call. They cut to the chase.

“Your dad suffered a heart attack this afternoon at Kentucky Lake. Mark was there and tried CPR, but it was too late. He was already gone. He had been carrying sandbags to build a sandbox for Matt to play in when we came home.” He was 60 years old.

The next few days were a blur. The world will remember that week, because it’s the same one in which Elvis died.

I don’t miss Elvis.


24 Replies to “L.V. Steinhoff, My Dad”

  1. Ken, I am so fortunate to still have my Dad here with us on this earth, but your touching story made me remember events in my life shared with my dad that I had forgotten. Thanks for sparking those memories.

  2. Ken

    Thank you for the Father’s day story and pictures of your dad, it touched my heart.

    Sandy Meystedt

  3. Kenny, what a wonderful, touching and beautiful tribute to your Dad. My father departed from this world nine years ago. I still miss Pop!

  4. Well done.

    After the side yard property was bought from D. Scivally, Dad brought home a small Caterpillar bulldozer (probably a D2) to level out the wooded area. Dee Voss came over and we were playing on the dozer when Dee said, “Ah we’d better get off this before the owner comes by and sees us.” I said, “Too late, the owner is setting on the porch watching us right now.” Toys, we had the best toys a kid could ever wish for.

    Wanting a sand pile to play in, David and I were smiles ear to ear when we came home from school one day and there in the side yard was the biggest sand pile we had ever seen. Dad had someone from the construction company drop off an entire dump truck load of sand.

    One last one. Construction jobs that were based around the building of a bridge were the best ones to go visit because that meant there would be a dragline and water. It was great fun to stand on the end of a hook attached to a cable from a dragline and then be hoisted up just above the water level and swung across the water laughing all the time. Dad always had that great smile on his face as he would reach for the levers and lower us closer and closer. He TOO enjoyed playing with his big toys as much as we did.

  5. Ken & Mark…thanks for sharing the wonderful memories of your Dad…it brings back special memories of my Dad also. I remind myself & my children raising their children, that time spent together…being Present in the moments is Love & everything else we give our children pales in value. These are the riches left behind…memories! Beautiful tribute…

  6. I, too, missed my Dad today. The photo of your dad beside the family car and your comments about him looking dapper really hit home with me. My dad worked in the Superior and Davis Electric factories. His daily attire was work pants and a plaid shirt, but on Sunday he looked like a million dollars. His best friend was Gene Sides (Sides Miller Men’s Store), and I used to love going with Daddy to shop for a new suit, overcoat, or dress hat. I don’t miss Elvis, either.

  7. Beautiful tribute, Ken. Of course it brought up memories of my Daddy. We were living in Florida when we got the call in 1965 from my aunt that Daddy had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54. We made the trip home in 18 hours, driving all night, and it was the longest night of my life, but we didn’t make it in time. At least he and Mother had come to Florida to visit us the fall before . . . for our first wedding anniversary.

    Thanks for the memories of our fathers.

  8. Very nice story Ken. The photos definetly tell the story…very much alive. My parents were divorced when I was young so, I didn’t see my Father much through the years and then eventually not at all. So thanks for the peek into your Father’s history.

  9. I am enjoying all of your articles so much! They bring back alot of memories since I was born and raised in Cape Girardeau, Mo. You are very talented ! Thank you Best Regards Virginia West

  10. I know you miss your dad Ken, and you always will! My dad has been gone over 30 years and is still greatly missed. Margi [my sister-in-law] I didn’t remember your speed trip to Cape but we have made a few of too.
    Joe Whitright

  11. L.V. was a fine man, a true Christian. He left a mark on me directly through his involvement in Boy Scout Troop 8 and indirectly through my great-uncle Fred Robinson, who worked for him as a dragline operator. Uncle Fred thought very highly of your dad, as did the rest of the older men that I knew through Scouting.

    1. Keith,

      Fred Robinson, Dutch, Doc Craig and Sylvester were almost like family. They were among the ones that Dad could always count on.

      I loved to stop by your Uncle Fred’s on the way to and from Dutchtown to talk with him and watch him feed his catfish. He was a great resource for Mother after Dad died.

      Mother and I never pass Fred’s house without making some kind of comment about him.

      Mother was wondering where you were these days.

  12. Ken, thank you for sharing your memories of your father. It says a lot about him, but an equal amount about the kind of man that you have become. Jane

    1. Thanks, Jane.

      We talk often about how lucky we are to have family that actually gets along.

      Of course, Mother points out that it helps that we don’t live next door to each other. Being a time zone apart from each other makes us close enough to keep in touch, but far enough apart that we don’t get on each others’ nerves.

  13. Ken,
    We have never met. I was in the class of 1954, but your photographs bridge the gap. Your father would have been touched to see how you honored him with your comments and your photos. No, we can’t go home again, but your photographic essays take us back in small ways. Thank you for this fine site.
    Judith Bader Jones

    1. Thanks for your kind words.

      I think it IS possible to go home again in Cape. I’ve lived in other places where I didn’t have that feeling, but there’s something comfortable about here.

      I told someone years ago that I need to get back here at least once a year to cruise past familiar haunts and recharge my spiritual batteries.

      Other than family, I don’t touch base with many (any) people, but I do enjoy seeing places that have meaning to me.

      One of the interesting things I’ve discovered in doing this blog is that readers respond more to photos of places than people. I would have thought it would be the exact opposite.

  14. Mr. Ken – Your early childhood photos with your dad pulled my memory backwards toward many pictures of my father and I with tools and equipment in the Industrial Arts building on the Southeast campus. He labored there as a professor for 35 years. I was very young, but he took the time to instruct me in safety and responsibility, as your dad did with you. When I think of 1977 it is of a Thanksgiving Day heart attack. My CPR worked, but only delayed his death for a few short days. He was a quiet and reserved man who would have been appalled to know his death was reported on the front page of the Southeast Missourian. He simply would have wanted to be remembered as a good father and teacher. I think of him often and miss his instruction greatly, especially when I see early photos of fathers and sons together. Thank you very much for showing your family pictures and for writing such a good story. Fred Williams CHS class of 1967

  15. Grandfather Harris Foster was committed to the principle: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” L.V. would be proud of you: father to son. The world still needs “dads” and Eagle Scouts.
    Thank you for the reminders.

  16. Hi Ken, Your words about your dad, do bring back memories, of our dad(Red Wieser). He too was strong and had qualities we all admire. Thanks for the pics and news about “home”.

  17. Hi Ken, I remember the day my father passed away. I was 13 and my brother was 6. My brother and I were in Pensacola, Fla, spending the summer with my grandparents. My dad was such an important part of our lives. He worked for the Frisco Railroad. He was 37. My father had a massive heart attack. I have a lot of great memories. Father’s Day is very special to me.

    Thanks for all the pictures and the walks down memory lane.

  18. I had the privilege of meeting your father on a couple of occasions, and what always struck me was he liked to smile. He seemed to really enjoy life. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an unkind word about him in all of these years. For that matter, I haven’t heard an unkind word about you, Ken, either. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or I’m getting really hard of hearing…

    L.V. left quite a legacy. My father, Grant, died in 1982 at the age of 62. I don’t think they make that model of men anymore in this day and age.

    Thanks for for sharing your memories.

  19. Ken,
    Your article about the Kentucky bridges led me to this story about your father. He must have been an incredible man and I’m sure he would be very proud and honored by your wonderful pictures and stories of him. My dad, Otis Sams, worked at the Cape Post Office for 29 years and retired as head window technician following open heart surgery. Dad was blessed to have over 20 years of retirement to enjoy time with his family, working in his garden and what he would call “puttering around”. I miss my dad every day and wanted you to know that your story brought back many memories of my dad. One memory of his funeral is that so many people commented about Dad’s smile. Good memories. Thanks for letting us in on your world!

  20. I have temporarily closed comments on this topic. It has become a spam magnet. After a couple of days, I’ll open up the comment section again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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