Lois “Chick” Steffes was face of Rialto hospitality
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News July 22, 2012 4:52PM
Lois "Chick" Steffes
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:04AM
Lois “Chick” Steffes of Joliet made her 91 years count, and she did it with a personality as sparkling as the jeweled Rialto pin she proudly displayed on her shoulder.
In her lifetime, Chick, said her friend Lynne Lichtenauer, Joliet Township High School director of alumni relations, was a former ballerina, country line dancer, race car owner and hot air balloon enthusiast, but Chick mostly took pride in serving the Rialto Square Theatre as a volunteer for more than 25 years.
“Chick was the lady who greeted you at the entrance to the Rialto’s esplanade for each performance,” Lynne said. “Her white hair was beautifully styled, her uniform impeccable and her smile warm and friendly. She was one of the dearest and kindest people I have known.”
For her tremendous volunteer service, Chick received service awards every five years, beginning with her fifth year and ending with her 25th. In 1990, Chick was inducted into the Rialto’s “Hall of Fame.”
“Chick was so devoted to the theater, she always wanted to be here, even when we didn’t have a show,” said Leann Hoffrogge, volunteer and concessions coordinator. “As a ticket taker, Chick welcomed you by name and asked how your family was.”
Once, when Andy Williams appeared at the Rialto, he wore a sweater that matched Chick’s, so she wore it for all eight performances and had her picture taken with Andy. As exciting as it was, Chick had a more thrilling encounter with her very favorite performer, Eddie Arnold.
“When he appeared at the Rialto, we asked Chick if she would like to pick him up at the airport in her Lincoln town car as he did not require a limo. Of course, the answer was, ‘Yes!’ ” Lynne said. “They formed a very nice friendship that lasted until Eddie Arnold passed away.”
Yet, Chick’s loyalty extended beyond the ticket booth. For instance, Lynne said, in 1993, when drastic changes in board members and staff were occurring, Chick circulated a petition to retain everyone.
Moreover, her hospitality extended beyond the doors of the theater. She opened her home to fellow Rialto volunteers and staff, as well as members of an antique car club and other country line dancers.
“Chick was the ‘hostess with the mostess,’” Lynne said. “She loved hosting wonderful picnics. She had a large metal barn next to her house which was compete with a kitchen, bathroom and tons of space for welcoming guests, which she did often.”
The Rialto is just not the same, Leann said, without Chick’s graceful demeanor, warm smile, kind words and genuine love for people. “She was a great lady,” Leann said. “She was a class act.”
Chick was a resident of Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet until her July 5 death. While there, Chick participated in its living history project. A DVD of Chick’s life is available at the Joliet Public Library.
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or email@example.com.