John Francis Steege died on January 30, 2023, of congestive heart failure at age 76. He was born and grew up in Queens, NY, the youngest son of the Reverend Martin Steege and Lucie Steege, a nurse who provided access to reproductive healthcare to low-income women. He attended Stanford University and Yale Medical School to become an OB-GYN.
He moved to North Carolina in 1977 to join the faculty at Duke University, and he retained such basketball fandom despite later moving over to UNC-Chapel Hill to work for 22 years as chief of the division of Minimally Invasive Gynecology Surgery and Pelvic Pain. He was one of the first to use laparoscopy in treating pelvic pain and performing hysterectomies, and he continued to focus on the care and treatment of chronic pelvic pain throughout his career. He also started a related fellowship, one of the first in the country, which gave rise to 14 fellows and inspired half of his graduated fellows to lead their own fellowship programs over the years. In addition to his technical abilities as a surgeon, his work was marked by a capacity to listen to and learn from women whose diagnoses are often insoluble absent these skills, and a joy in engaging with and teaching the next generation of excellent physicians. His lifelong focus on caring for others was an inspiration to his students and his family.
He consistently started his surgical schedule early in the morning so he could be home in time for family dinner. He taught his three children to ride bicycles without training wheels, grill a Thanksgiving turkey, appreciate rhubarb pie, and ask incisive questions about the world. The family went to the beach at Bald Head Island nearly every summer and explored national parks around the country. His children learned a love for the natural world and will always think of him when spending time in the woods or hiking up a mountain.
In retirement, his intellectual curiosity led him to spend hours in his wood shop, learning new techniques to create beautiful furniture for friends and family; read nonfiction tomes and enjoy learning the nuances in major historical events; help lead a book group; catch up with friends every Friday at lunch; attend lectures and film festivals at area universities; and regularly tune into Judea Reform Congregation’s music class.
He is survived by his beloved wife Rosilene Ziegler; children Sarah, Adam, and Noah Steege; daughters-in-law Susannah Zietz and Stephanie Steege; grandchildren Ezra and Amelia Steege, who provided him with endless joy and delight; and brother Ted Steege, sister-in-law Eva Steege, sister Rhoda Kriesel, and brother-in-law John Fackler. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2:00pm, at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, NC. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Planned Parenthood (www.plannedparenthood.org), the Inter-Faith Council (https://www.ifcweb.org/), or the Judea Reform Congregation Music Fund (https://www.judeareform.org/give).