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John Steers
1959- 2014
Transferred to Heaven I from WI VIII

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.John Steers
 

John Steers retired in April after 19 years as La Crosse County’s longest serving medical examiner. Terminally ill, he didn’t want to spend his last years dealing with other people’s deaths. Steers set out in his RV in June. He saw Gettysburg and Lincoln’s tomb. He dug for diamonds in Arkansas. It was supposed to be a two-year trip to celebrate life before his prostate cancer took it. But Steers turned around in December when cancer ate through his hip. He tried radiation and drugs to ease the pain but suffered while the disease continued its attack. Steers died at 5:21 a.m. Monday with his family and friends at his side. Hours later, dispatchers broadcasted the fact that his tour of duty had ended. “That would have meant a lot (to him),” said Samantha Schott, one of Steers’ three children.

Steers, a Mindoro native, took over as medical examiner on April 25, 1994, after working as a police officer in the U.S. Navy and Army and as a paramedic and deputy coroner in Buffalo and rempealeau counties. It was his mission to have his office recognized as one that can partner with police to help determine the cause and manner of death. “It’s the worst job to deal with death every day, but he made it more than that. He made it an educational experience,” Schott said. “It wasn’t a job to him. It was my dad’s life.” He was the “ultimate professional,” said his wife and former deputy medical examiner, Christine Henson.

“He never let a family persuade him or emotions persuade him. He looked at the science,” she said. “He was impeccable at making sure the office had the highest standards.” The couple met eight years ago at a death scene when Henson was a nurse. Then had coffee, then lunch and then one warm February afternoon in 2005 went for a motorcycle ride. “And we’ve been inseparable ever since,” she said.

They worked at death scenes together until they married on Aug. 18, 2012. Life was “a joke a minute,” spent traveling the country when he was healthy, Henson said. “We did whatever he felt like doing,” she said. The cancer spread to his bones in March and grew more aggressive through the year, but Steers was able to finish the Livestrong program at the YMCA, and he shot his first buck last fall. He rode his motorcycle until he couldn’t anymore.

Steers entered hospice care Jan. 26 and suffered a stoke Feb. 17 that left him unable to speak. Schott spent the last week at her father’s side, her hand joined with his as they slept. He was afraid to leave his family and to die alone, she said. Steers lived death but never went to a dying scene. He struggled to face his own death coming too soon, said police chaplain the Rev. Mark Clements, who knew him for 14 years. In the last few weeks, he was at peace and accepted the inevitable, Clements said. Steers was surrounded by family when he took his last breath. He was 55. “He was an awesome guy,” Schott said. “He came from a poor family, but he didn’t let that hold him back from becoming someone important.”

She intends to follow her father’s footsteps to become a medical examiner someday, adding that she’s proud of the man who did so much for that office. A piece of Steers died the day cancer forced him to retire after nearly two decades investigating thousands of deaths, his wife said. “I want people to know he was so proud of being a self-made man. Everything that happened he made happen himself,” Henson said. “He loved life. He lived it to the fullest. He had no regrets, no regrets.”