John Steinbrugge Obituary
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In Memory of

John M. Steinbrugge

November 8, 1923 - July 20, 2013
Obituary

We celebrate the life of John Steinbrugge, who enjoyed 89 years on this Earth. John was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1923 to Henry and Marie Steinbrugge. He was the third son of four children, and moved to Portland in 1925. He attended Llewellyn Grade School, Washington High School and Oregon State University, majoring in Civil and Structural Engineering. During these years he demonstrated his outstanding mathematical ability, with Honor Roll and scholarship recognition. In WWII, as an 18 year old, John joined the Navy and became a meteorological officer and was sent to UCLA to become a weather forecaster. He became an Ensign at Notre...
We celebrate the life of John Steinbrugge, who enjoyed 89 years on this Earth. John was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1923 to Henry and Marie Steinbrugge. He was the third son of four children, and moved to Portland in 1925. He attended Llewellyn Grade School, Washington High School and Oregon State University, majoring in Civil and Structural Engineering. During these years he demonstrated his outstanding mathematical ability, with Honor Roll and scholarship recognition.
In WWII, as an 18 year old, John joined the Navy and became a meteorological officer and was sent to UCLA to become a weather forecaster. He became an Ensign at Notre Dame Midshipman's School and was an officer before he was 21. He was the top student at UCLA out of 160 students studying meteorology. He served at the Miami and Bermuda Naval Air stations until the war ended. John stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war and eventually became a Lt. Commander. He retired from the Reserves after 20 years.
After graduation from Oregon State, John started his career in Southern California designing buildings for earthquakes. During his career, he worked at firms that did the structural engineering for the Seattle Space Needle, the Palm Springs tramway, and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA. In 1962, John opened his own structural engineering firm in Newport Beach, CA, where at its peak, he employed 30 engineers. He evolved from being a technical engineer to a problem solving business person.
John truly enjoyed hiking in the mountains, and climbed all of the local Southern California Mountains, many of them over 10,000 feet. John was 80 when he retired and moved back to Oregon to be near his two daughters and their families. He explored many of the trails in Forest Park, and it was not unusual for him to walk 5 miles daily. He also enjoyed reading and discussing American History and was a collector of Lewis and Clark's adventures. He often read 30-50 books a year.
He believed in giving back to the community. He had been very active in his church in California, as well as being on the Board of Directors of the Orange County YMCA and the Golden West College Foundation.
John will be remembered by his never ending desire for integrity, ethics and hard work. His ability to apply good judgment and common sense necessary in the engineering field and in everyday living is what brought him success. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Norma, his daughters and son-in-laws, Laura and Dennis Winkelman and Karla and Robert Piatt; grandchildren Kristina and Tyler Lekas and Makaila Fant; and sister Margaret Steinbrugge.
Please join us for a Celebration of Life memorial service on August 24, 2013 at 11:00am at Sunset Presbyterian Church at 14986 NW Cornell Rd, Portland 97229





John was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1923 the third son of four siblings. Before he had a chance the family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1925. He attended Llewellyn Grade School and Washington High School. In Washington he demonstrated his outstanding mathematical ability and received the class scholarship. He was on the Honor Roll many times.
WORLD WAR II. John was just I8 years old as the war started and he entered college the same year. John joined the Navy in 1942 and the Navy selected him to be a meteorological officer and sent him to UCLA to learn the ins and outs of weather forecasting. The Navy decided that it needed the best and the brightest for meteorological officers so it selected the best and brightest from the colleges in the West. He was attending University of Colorado at the time and two from Colorado were selected; some of the colleges included were Cal Tech, University of California, Berkeley; University of Washington, etc. He became an Ensign at Notre Dame Midshipman's School and was an of?cer before he was21.
He was the top student at UCLA out of some 160 students studying meteorology. He served at Miami Naval Air Station and Bermuda Naval Air Station until the war ended He received a letter of commendation from the Commander Air Force, Atlantic Fleet (ComAirLant) during his service at Bermuda. The letter commended him for exceptional service for his efforts to predict weather at Bermuda. This was in spite of the difficulties of forecasting the correct weather on the island of Bermuda when the ships and airplanes could not broadcast their weather without the enemy also getting the information and the location of the ship or plane. He was the only of?cer at Bermuda who received a Commendation during World War II out of some 4,000 to 6,000 men stationed there.
John had to assume the position of OOD for the entire base once a month at Bermuda when he was only 21 years old. This meant that any and all emergencies came through his hands for a day - great responsibility. John stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war and eventually became a Lt. Commander; he stayed in the service for some 20 years because he felt he had a debt to pay to his country.
After the war he continued his education at Oregon State University majoring in Civil and Structural engineering. However, during the war he decided to return to college and get a liberal education instead of just a technical education. Before the war he had no inclination other than to be a good engineer. But during the war he had grown up and realized that a liberal education was essential to anyone who wished to participate in our society. So he took courses in music, philosophy, religion, history and other social sciences. John was in college about ?ve and a half years to obtain the needs for his future life. Upon graduation the Honors Committee chose him for one of the senior honors. Seldom were engineers chosen for these honors. During his technical education John's math ability was so outstanding, he took all the math that was available at Oregon State so that the last class they offered there were only two students, with John being one of them. He loved calculus so much that he did every problem in his book. The professor wouldn't give him back the work that he had done because he was afraid that John would sell it to a fraternity. He wouldn't have done that.
Upon graduating from Oregon State in 1948, he moved to Southern California to pursue his desire to design buildings for earthquakes. John had discovered that he excelled in the most difficult courses so for a profession he chose earthquake design in California. One of his employments was the State of California, Schoolhouse Section. During his eight years with the State he published eight technical papers on structural aspects of construction; the one that established his reputation is titled "Comparative Roof Diaphragms" and was published in 1956. This paper resulted in John's appointment as the acting research director for the evaluation of all new structural materials for the State of California for the years I956 to 1962. This appointment resulted in his selection to the Structural Engineers Association Committee on the new seismic code for California which then was adopted by all of our country as well as most of the countries of the world! Needless to say it was the most signi?cant new seismic code that has been developed. He was honored by being the youngest member of the committee.
One of John's assignments at the state was to supervise the hundreds of inspectors who inspected California's public schools. As a ?eld supervisor he trained inspectors and inspected their work in the ?eld. He was an inspector of inspectors. He found that there was no system of training inspector's except on the job. S0 he wrote a syllabus with pictures of how things should be built; on wood, concrete, foundations, etc. He gave classes in various locations and it proved to be so effective that it was used throughout Southern California. It is still in use to this date.
Then in 1962 John opened his own consulting ?rm in Newport Beach, California; this was to prove to be the work he was meant to do. It prospered attaining a maximum size of thirty engineers. During his early years his ability in the sciences and mathematics led him to believe that he was destined to be in a technical ?eld, and maybe in teaching, but at this stage of life he found that he had great capabilities in management and all the facets of business. He created his business from scratch by knocking on doors and asking friends for leads and references - this all done by timid John. He learned how to get clients and how to keep the worthy ones and how to get the appropriate fees and to be more pro?table than his competitors.
Notable structures that he worked on included the Palm Springs Tramway, the glass enclosure of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Seattle Space Needle, the thirty million dollar research center for Union Oil in Brea, California and many of the high rise office buildings in Southern California. He was an expert witness in hundreds of legal cases including the 1994 San Fernando Earthquake. He visited the site and examined the damage the day after the quake. In addition to all these legal cases as expert witness he was selected by the American Arbitration Association to arbitrate construction legal cases.
John's civic duties involved Board of Directors of Orange County YMCA, Golden West Foundation as the treasurer, Newport Center Association, Design Plaza Association. He was chairman of the Board of Appeals for the City of Huntington Beach. He served on many committees for his church including Facilities, Building, Elder, Property Transition Team etc. The most important committee that he served on in the last 50 years was the committee to rewrite the earthquake code for the State of California and the entire USA in 1961. He was the youngest member of this committee.
He was honored by the State of California by being included in the Bancroft Library; which is the library that is used to store all of the oral history of California. John's oral history for Bancroft Library consisted of the research and development of earthquake design. This was all of the work he had done while he was working for the State of California as well as his committee work for the Structural Engineer Association of California. John was now in the company with the former and current Governors of the state.
John had many hobbies and perhaps the main one was his hiking and/or backpacking in the Sierra Mountains. He never got tired of this endeavor and climbed all of our local Southern California mountains; usually persuading his daughters to accompany him He backpacked the Grand Canyon, Mt. Whitney and a 4 '/2 day crossing of the Sierra Mountains. These were grand adventures with his daughters.
His interests were very broad going from the mountains and sailing to music, art and reading. He often read 30 to 50 books in a year with about two thirds of the books being non-?ction.
John married Norma Van Wormer in 1950 and they had two daughters, Laura Winkelman and Karla Piatt. In the year 2001 John ?nally retired and then John and Norma moved to Portland, Oregon in 2003 to be close to their daughters and all of their grandchildren. John was 80 years old when he left beautiful Huntington Beach and left his friends and clients of 55 years. It was hard to do.
IN SUMMARY. When looking at his academic life, one would assume that after college, he would have been in an endeavor in mathematics, chemistry, physics or teaching. However after graduation he never used any of these disciplines. A waste? He doesn't know; he used other talents that he hadn't discovered yet. But the threads that ran through his professional life consisted of a number of other important assets. His desire to do the best that he could do in a particular job - just doing his best; this was important to him. Then coupled with this the ability to examine what he was doing and did it ?t in the goals of the company he was working for. In other words the imagination to examine everything around him pertaining to the business and to see and know how to improve it, and to see outside the box. These assets seem too simple and hardly worth mentioning, but being able to couple them gave him great success particularly in the Navy, the State, his business as well as his academic career. The other asset that showed up in his business was the good judgment (common sense) necessary in the engineering ?eld. He also learned how to keep his clients happy because he used empathy - that is when they had a problem he felt the pain along with them. His major assets were the very common place things; including the investments that he made. Last but not least he knew how to work with people; he did not let his ego get in the way.

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