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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
1924 – 2020
John F. Steele, Sr. is the strategic advisor for Hilltop Basic Resources, Inc., a company owned by his parents and now run by his son, John Steele, Jr. Hilltop was name Tri-State Family Business of the Year in 2006.
Mr. Steele grew up in Rochester, New York and lived there until age 16. As a youth, he earned the rank of Life Scout and throughout his life remained heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America. In 2015, Senator Rob Portman celebrated Mr. Steele’s commitment to scouting by presenting him the Honoree award at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
Just after the beginning of World War II John Steele became a freshman at Dartmouth College. In 1942 he joined the Navy and spent roughly a year and a half in training as a Navy pilot. He later received his wings and commission as an Ensign at Pensacola Naval Air Base in Florida.
Lt. JG John Steele served as a pilot on U.S. Aircraft carriers during World War II. Beginning in 1944 he flew TBM Avengers which were designed to launch torpedoes at the enemy. After the War, Mr. Steele returned to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1948. During his senior year he was elected to the DKE Fraternity and Sphinx Senior Honorary Society.
During his tenure, John Steele aggressively expanded the business to market ready-mix concrete and aggregates in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, and the downtown Cincinnati plant. He and his team literally helped build Cincinnati as Hilltop worked on projects including Great American Ball Park, Paul Brown Stadium, Fort Washington Way, the I-471 Bridge, Central Street Bridge, 312 Walnut, Covington Riverfront Developments and the University of Cincinnati Molecular Studies Building.
Mr. Steele has served as Chairman or President of the following community organizations: Salvation Army Advisory Board, Cincinnati Art Museum, Art Academy of Cincinnati, Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. In addition, he served as a Board member of many other organizations, including the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, Edgecliff College, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, Cincinnati Country Club and The University Club of Cincinnati. He was one of three people to receive the 1998 Spirit of Construction Award presented by the construction industry of Greater Cincinnati. He was recognized by the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 2015. Mr. Steele is a member of the Commonwealth Club of Cincinnati and the Queen City Optimists Club.
Mr. Steele was married to Dorothy Conroy and had four children. After her death, he married Lela Emery, daughter of Mr. John J. Emery, recipient of the Greater Living Cincinnatian Award in 1967. Steele currently resides in a condominium on Ingleside Avenue in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Walnut Hills.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization