Ernest's Story

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Ernest C. Steele, proud member of the greatest generation, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at Shannondale Healthcare Center, Maryville, Tennessee.
He was the 4th of six children born to Jonas Fred Steele and Leona McFarland on May 11, 1925. Ernest was raised in a four-room house in Bacon Creek, South Corbin. He graduated from Woodbine High School where he excelled in academics and on the basketball hardwood. On June 6, 1944, Ernest married his high school sweetheart, Cora Jones of Williamsburg. During World War II, he served in the US Army Air Corp, as a navigator, bombardier, and aerial gunner on B-24's and B-29's. After the war, he attended the University of Kentucky on the GI bill, graduating with honors in 1948 with a degree in Mathematics. Ernest went on to earn a master's degree in mathematical statistics at UK, as well. He began his professional career with Peninsula Life Insurance Company in Raleigh, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida as an actuary. For several years working for life insurance companies in the southeast, he transitioned to executive management. At age 33, Ernest became one of the youngest chief executives in the life insurance industry when he was named President of Appalachian National Life, in Knoxville, 1958. Over the next 30 years, Ernest attained many professional achievements, becoming Chairman of the Board of Life Office Management Association (LOMA), President of Coastal States Life Insurance Company of Atlanta, and returning to Raleigh to retire as Chief Executive officer of McMillan Trust. He also served as President of the Great Smoky Mountain Boy Scouts of America Council in Knoxville and in a similar role in Atlanta. In 2009, Ernest was inducted into the University of Kentucky Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Ernest was not only accomplished in the business world, but he was also a beloved family man and a person of strong Christian faith. He and wife Cora were founding members of West Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville where he was a long time deacon, and in later years, a faithful member of Meridian Baptist Church in South Knoxville where he was active in the choir. He loved music. As a young man Ernest performed in quartets including the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Later in life, he was a proud member of the Shannondale Singers. Ernest and Cora were blessed with two sons. After 44 years of marriage and Cora's passing in 1988, Ernest happily shared 16 years in marriage with Helen LeCoultre of Knoxville. They enjoyed traveling and vacationing with family during their retirement years.
Ernest was preceded in death by his two wives.
He is survived by his two sons, Gerry (Emily) and David (Sally) Steele; three grandchildren, Luke (Andrea) Steele, Emily (Jonah) Jackson, and Betsy (Sage) Hirschy; and six great-grandchildren, Preston and Mark Steele, Mary Kate and Molly Jackson, and Cole and Brooks Hirschy.
Visitation will be Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, from 10 a.m. until noon at Berry Funeral Home, 3704 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, TN with a service at noon. The interment is at 3:00pm at Highland Cemetery in Williamsburg.
Condolences may be offered at www.berryfuneralhome.com.
Published on January 16, 2017
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