Blue Earth celebrates Sam Beezy Day on March 28
For most people across the world, March 28 was another ordinary hum-drum day. However, for folks in Blue Earth, March 28 was the holiday known as Sam Beezy Day.
But wait, I live in Blue Earth and I don’t know what Sam Beezy Day is.
Sure you do. Why? Because everybody knows Sam Beezy knows everybody and everybody knows Sam Beezy.
For around 15 years, beginning around 1985, one beloved science teacher named Bob Steinke brought the legend of Sam Beezy to life through a well-kept secret with his students in his science classrooms. The story of Sam Beezy was hyped months before the actual date, and when the beloved holiday arrived, students who indulged in the story of Sam Beezy from their teacher were sworn to secrecy.
No one ever broke that silence. Until now.
That secret was kept by students, staff, friends, and family alike. Now his son, Peter Steinke, has finally lifted the lid on the well-kept secret.
After Bob’s passing in 2000 from a lengthy battle with brain cancer, Sam Beezy Day is now a way to commemorate the compassionate, curious, and capricious memory of a beloved Blue Earth Area teacher.
No one knows exactly when Sam Beezy Day began not even his closest family members know because of how long Bob Steinke kept his long-running joke going on.
“Every year, and I have no idea why he chose March 28, Dad would put on a plaid sports coat, tie, and straw boater hat,” recalls Peter Steinke, “and if you were old enough to have his class, you would be told the story of Sam Beezy. Once Dad told the story, you were sworn to secrecy not to tell anyone else. Not even your classmates, and kids held true to their word.”
“It wasn’t just about Sam Beezy Day, itself,” says Nancy Steinke, wife of Bob Steinke and current media associate at Blue Earth Area Schools. “It was the build up. Bob would talk about Sam Beezy Day weeks before, saying ‘only 15 shopping days left until Sam Beezy Day!’ He would put it in the school announcements, and keep the whole school curious as to what Sam Beezy Day was. He loved a good joke, and this was one of his best.”
Peter recalls his father coming down the stairs on the morning of every March 28 singing, “oh, it’s Sam Beezy Day” to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.”
“Dad loved his jokes. He always had a joke handy, and everywhere we went, he was always in conversation with someone from somewhere, and he would always lend his most current joke at the end of any conversation. That’s just who he was,” says Peter. “He wore his heart on his sleeve and his enthusiasm on his forehead.”
The easiest way to celebrate Sam Beezy Day, for anyone wondering, is to wear plaid. And if you are lucky enough to own a plaid sports coat? All the better.
However, there is another key part of Sam Beezy Day.
“Work to know everyone around you,” says Peter. “Connect with people you may not connect with regularly, and make them laugh. Tell a joke. Be silly. Dad always had a focus to find connection with everything in his life whether it was his work, or his faith, or his jokes.”
Peter admits that he never did make it to hear his dad tell the tale of Sam Beezy during his own science class period because Bob developed his brain cancer before Peter could be in his class.
“Once Dad was sick, he finally told me and my brother Kurt the tale, outside of the classroom,” says Peter.
Nancy Steinke recalls the day Bob had a seizure at home in the fall of 1998 and was taken to Mayo Clinic where they later found an acorn-sized tumor in his brain that was malignant. Bob went through two surgeries to remove the small mass and a number of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
“I even remember one time, Larry Larkin volunteered to take Bob up to his radiation treatment. Bob had shaved his head at that point and Larry had somehow convinced everyone that Bob was Jesse Ventura (Minnesota’s governor at the time). They about crashed the vehicle from laughing so hard,” says Nancy.
Nancy met the love of her life the first day of college at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
“Bob was my orientation leader, and after telling me when he wanted to grow up, he wanted to be a tuba, we were pretty much inseparable,” she says. The two enjoyed discussing various topics, and playing and singing music together, and after just two months, were engaged to be married. The couple then took the time to get married almost a year and a half later. “Some things are just meant to be,” Nancy says, fondly.
Both Peter and Nancy recall Bob taking any moment of the day, chaotic or not, to create teachable moments. From showing rock formations on family vacations to showing his two sons, and older daughter, Katie, a bird that had gotten caught in the living room one Christmas.
“It took him 45 minutes to catch the thing, and do you think he took it outside? No, he said, ‘here, kids, come look at this bird!’ And after showing them the wings and the beak, that thing got away, and it took him 45 more minutes to catch it a second time,” sighs Nancy with a big smile. “That’s just who Bob was.”
Even during his darkest days, Bob Steinke had the light of the world on his shoulders. Peter recalls Bob joking with his surgeon the day of his brain surgery.
“He asked his surgeon, ‘Doc, will I be able to play the violin after the surgery?’ and the doctor said, ‘well of course, I don’t see why not,’ and Dad’s reply was, ‘that’s amazing. I couldn’t play it before'” laughs Peter.
In honest reflection, the Steinkes realize, quite well, that Bob and his impact on his community was greater than they could ever fathom.
From his science classrooms at Elmore Elementary and Blue Earth Area, to working with the Town and Country Players almost every single summer, to reading “The Hobbit” to fourth graders, to participating in a barbershop quartet, to woodworking, fishing, church, and of course, being a loving father and husband, it seemed everyone knew who Bob Steinke was.
“You never know who you are going to affect in your life, in their life, and even the people around you,” reflects Peter. “Dad affected many with his wise words and wise cracks. He had a focus to find connection and bring community together. We need people. He knew that.”
“In his last days, Bob spoke to his nursing staff about the importance of laughter and how healing that can be,” says Nancy. “He always made people laugh, and was always such a positive person.”
Bob Steinke passed away on his 49th birthday, in August of 2000 and his community still feels the loss of his presence to this day.
Which is perhaps why Sam Beezy Day is such an important holiday to those in Blue Earth.
You see, everyone knows that Bob Steinke knew everyone and everyone knew Bob Steinke.