Chuck Steiner’s personality never left him.
“The part that was really a gift to us was that Chuck kept his personality,” said Mark N. Eagan of Steiner, the former Chamber of Schenectady County leader who died Tuesday morning at age 66. “So often, people’s personalities change or their whole outlook does. I would say Chuck was probably one of the most positive people I ever met in my life.
“Through the whole time, he kept that,” added Eagan, chief executive officer of the Capital Region Chamber. “He was always a glass half-full kind of guy.”
Steiner, who lived in Niskayuna, recently had been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The condition, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is a fatal brain disorder that affects about one person out of every million worldwide.
Steiner became president of the Capital Region Chamber when the Schenectady and Albany-Colonie chambers merged in 2015. He left the organization at the end of last October and returned on a part-time basis at the end of November, but was still not feeling well.
The chamber announced Steiner’s health problems Feb. 3.
“It was a very fast-moving disease,” Eagan said. “I don’t think we ever suspected he was going to be taken from us this soon.”
Other members of the Capital Region business community remembered Steiner’s good work and good humor.
“I got asked almost every day by different business people, ‘What’s the latest on Chuck?'” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority. “Everybody’s been asking for him in the last few months.
“He was just one of the finest people, kindest people, great leader for the chamber, great community person,” Gillen added. “He really kind of adopted Schenectady when he moved here from Niagara Falls and really became a major figure in the community.”
Eagan said Steiner began his chamber work in Niagara Falls in 1980. He started work at the Schenectady Chamber during the early 2000s.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney remembered Steiner as an extremely friendly, nice guy.
“He was always pleasant, upbeat,” Carney said. “He was boosting Schenectady when nobody else was or very few people were. He was a real positive influence in the community. I think his passing is a very sad event.”
Bobby Mallozzi, owner of Schenectady’s Villa Italia pasticceria, said he considered Steiner a great friend.
“He was one of the first people I got to know really well when we moved to Schenectady in 2005,” Mallozzi said. “I’ve known Chuck since 2001; he and I went to opening night of Gillette Stadium (in Foxborough, Mass.) when the (New England) Patriots opened their new stadium. He was a genuinely kind man. I cannot say that I ever had any dealings with Chuck that weren’t absolutely pleasant and enjoyable. He was just a great person.”
Denise Romeo, executive vice president for the Saratoga County Chamber, said she worked with Steiner on several projects. One of them was especially dear to his heart — the Unified Military Affairs Council, which works with local military bases.
“It was started out of the Schenectady chamber years ago and obviously when they merged it became a program out of the Capital Region Chamber,” Romeo said. “Chuck was a guy, his concern always was for local military people, the presence they make and the economic impact all these bases bring.”
Steiner’s appreciation for military personnel also showed with the Schenectady chamber’s “To Honor and Serve” breakfast, held for veterans and local base commanders around Veterans Day.
“My daughter (Maria Johnson) is in the military and Chuck always went out of his way to ask me how my daughter was doing,” Romeo said. “He had a real passion and a soft spot for our military and that’s how I will remember Chuck Steiner.”
On Feb. 7, the day before Rivers Casino & Resort opened in Schenectady, Steiner and a few friends from the business community received a private tour of the facility.
“We took him through every part of the building, and he was very happy,” Gillen said.
While Gillen heard questions, Eagan saw cards and letters at the Steiner residence. Placed on top of each other, Eagan said, the stack of mail would have been 2 feet high.
“He really felt lots of support and lots of caring from people throughout the community,” Eagan said.
Funeral arrangements are being conducted by Daly Funeral Home in Schenectady.