As cross-country captain at Duxbury High School in his senior year, Tim Steele would lead the team to the little park next to Bluefish River Bridge to stretch before running. On the jog over, Steele, who graduated in 2004, would often do a somersault on someone’s lawn, then keep running without missing a beat.
“He would challenge us to do the same, and some would, but no one ever came close to doing it as well as Tim,” wrote Jonathan Lynch, a junior on that team.
A 2009 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, Steele was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 23, 2011. He was 25 and had recently become a father.
Lynch’s remembrance was one of many featured on easels during Saturday’s dedication of the new Lieutenant Timothy J. Steele Athletic Building at Duxbury High School. A slide show of photos of Steele flashed on the wall above during the ceremony attended by his family, many friends, and officials.
“I think this fits,” Mary Ellen Steele, Tim’s mother, said of the naming of the building, following the program. She said some town officials originally thought about naming the new high school after her son, but ultimately decided the athletic building was most appropriate.
Steele was captain of the swim, track, and cross-country teams, as well as vice president of his class.
“My prayer for this building is that the most vulnerable can be nurtured here and strengthened,” his mother said Saturday.
She said her son did not always see himself as a leader and successful student, and had to work hard for his academic achievements.
Steele’s widow, Meaghan, agreed that dedicating the sports building to him was fitting. “We’re very touched,” she said. She and the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Liberty, live in Fort Drum, N.Y., where the young family had made their home before his deployment to the war in Afghanistan.
The couple met when Steele, then a West Point cadet, was helping a Knights of Columbus group rebuild Houma, just south of New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina. She said he insulted the food that she and others had cooked for the volunteers. So she said she told him since he didn’t like the food, he could take her out for dinner, which he did.
“He was that contagious,” she said. “He was not like anyone else I ever met.”
During his next school break, Meaghan visited Steele and his family in Duxbury. She said she wanted to meet the family he talked so much about. He was one of eight children of Mary Ellen and Jack Steele.
“It was a strong, loving family,” she said.
Many members of the Steele family were at the dedication, some of them straight from competing in a Lynnfield road race dedicated to fallen soldiers.
His sister Julie Steele Maxwell, an army major, had flown in from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the day before. Speaking in full uniform to the crowd of more than 100, she told how in the two years since her brother’s death, people have biked, swum, and marched long distances, memorializing him through tough physical exertion.
“To the athletes and the coaches who will now train in the Lieutenant Timothy Steele Athletic Building, may you continue to challenge yourselves and each other to go faster, further, higher, and harder,” she said.
Duxbury School Committee member John Heinstadt said the $5 million facility — flooded Friday with 2 inches of water due to a loose pipe coupling, but quickly cleaned up — was paid for by local taxpayers and will be used by high school teams, but also as a polling place and asset for the town.
In an interview before the dedication, Heinstadt said the town as a whole was greatly affected by Steele’s death. Steele had an impact on both youths and adults, he said, not only because of his accomplishments in school and because the Steeles are a large, longtime family in town, but also because not many youths from Duxbury go into the military.
“He left a great legacy at Duxbury High School of leadership, patriotism, and dedication to whatever he tried to accomplish,’’ Heinstadt said.
Other tributes since Steele was killed have included a memorial built by the Duxbury American Legion Post 223 honoring him and the men and women who served in conflicts from Grenada to Afghanistan; the dedication of the town’s Fourth of July Parade in 2012; and fund-raisers, including a 5K road race and a golf tournament, organized by the Knights of Columbus and others.
Steele has also been honored in tributes at West Point, including by a group of lieutenants who marched in his honor with 40-pound rucksacks from West Point Cemetery, where Steele is buried, to the new World Trade Center site in Manhattan.
Jean Lang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.