Cover photo for Saundra Steele's Obituary
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1949 Saundra 2022

Saundra Steele

August 7, 1949 — May 30, 2022


Saundra Joyce Rucker Steele, born on August 7, 1949 in Holden, West Virginia to Edgar Rucker and Garnet Josephine Cook Rucker, passed away on May 30, 2022 after a valiant battle with ovarian cancer surrounded by her family and lifelong friends.  Saundra is also preceded in death by her beloved husband of thirty-seven years, William Alexander Steele III.

Saundra is survived by her daughters, Britt Genevieve Steele Venuta (Fabrizio) of Naples, Florida and Olivia Ruth Steele of Los Angeles, California; her beloved granddaughter, Carolina Jacqueline Venuta; her two sisters Sharon Rucker Howard and Jennifer Rucker Pendley, both of Nashville, Tennessee and her brother, Larry Tyree (Judy) of Westminster, Maryland; her niece and nephew, Clementyne Rucker Howard and Aaron Edgar Pendley (Ann).  Saundra is also survived by her cherished partner, Lloyd Green.

Saundra came into this world with a passion for the beauty of nature, music and family.  She began her singing career at the ripe age of five years old with the Minstrel Elks in Cumberland, Maryland.  Her mother quickly realized that Saundra had a gift and would accompany her to fairs and festivals all over the Mid-Atlantic.  She was one of the “Stars Of Tomorrow” on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City for three consecutive summers and made two television appearances on the seminal Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour on CBS.  At eighteen years old, Saundra moved to Nashville, Tennessee  to pursue a recording career working with legendary Music Row figures Ralph Murphy, Roger Cook, Bobby Wood, Allen Reynolds, Jim Mazza, Garth Fundis and Lloyd Green making records for Royal American, Monument Records, United Artists Records and EMI America.  Along with her singing partner Dianne Sherrill, she was a popular fixture in clubs in “Printer’s Alley” and at The Western Room, The Carousel, The Library and The Afterthought.  She also toured as a back-up singer for the iconic George Jones, Johnny Rodriguez, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Tillotson, Boots Randolph and The Stamps Quartet.  She sang her heart out on countless studio demos.  Saundra loved singing, and she loved Music City.

In 1975, she married the love of her life, Alex Steele, and began her next chapter, raising two beautiful daughters and devoting herself to her husband and family.

In 1993, Saundra and Alex began their stewardship of “Owl’s Hill”, the mid-century modern estate built by Walter and Hulda Sharp. “The best years of my life were spent here,” she said. “I grew up in nature in the middle of a state park in Maryland, and I had the luxury of revisiting and sharing that experience with my family here, providing our daughters with the rare opportunity to discover the dignity and sensory experience of nature and art side-by-side. I want to preserve that for others.” The family also cherished their many adventures abroad by land and by sea from London to Istanbul and Bodrum, Turkey, and Lucignano, Italy where their home became a landing pad for many family adventures.  Saundra had a passion for beauty and art in all its forms, and the family became avid collectors of some of the world’s most avant-garde artists – Jason Martin, Anish Kapoor, Jaume Plensa and Javier Marin to name a few – the juxtaposition of art and nature became a part of Saundra’s creative vision in everything she touched.  She added her fabulous flair and inexhaustible energy to many philanthropic causes over the years, co-chairing the inaugural Opera Gala at War Memorial, Children’s Miracle Network Telethon benefiting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, The Royal Chase luncheon at Warner Parks, along with designing décor for the Symphony Ball, The Hunt Ball and numerous events for her friends.  She loved bringing treasures from her travels to Nashville, helping her daughter Britt launch a boutique concierge company, Tocca, together orchestrating a Turkish Bazaar at the Loew’s Vanderbilt Plaza and later an Italian Mercato in her home during the holidays.  Vintage bathtubs filled with bottles of champagne… exotic fabrics used as curtained partitions… and her beloved lichen encrusted apple branches from Owl’s Hill used as sculptural installations… Saundra loved bringing the world to your doorstep and the outdoors inside… literally… constructing a giant indoor tree complete with a stuffed tiger suspended in the branches for an Ensworth School reunion was only the tip of the iceberg!  She had the innate ability to light up any room regardless of the size of the crowd.  Her imagination, creativity, sense of humor and zest for life knew no bounds.  Her fierce devotion to her family, generosity of spirit, endless talents and sense of adventure have left an indelible mark on all who knew her.

Saundra’s ashes will be interred alongside her husband in the Steele family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee as well as in the Rucker family plot in Webbville, Kentucky.  In lieu of flowers, donations to Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, 545 Beech Creek Road South, Brentwood, 37027; Cheekwood, 1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville, 37205; and, Alive Hospice, 1718 Patterson Street, Nashville, 37203 are welcome.

A celebration of her whimsical and extraordinary life will be held on Friday, July 29, 2022 from 3:00pm to 6:00pm at the Belle Meade Country Club.  All who loved her are invited to join and share a Saundra story!

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Saundra Steele, please visit our flower store.


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