Remembering Gretchen Steiger

Dear OAR family,

Olympia Area Rowing recently lost a beloved friend, fellow member and coach.

Gretchen Steiger passed away on April 12th after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than four years ago.  Gretchen’s smile, enthusiasm and joy will be missed greatly by everyone who knew her.

Gretchen’s love of rowing began when she was a high school student at Kent School in Connecticut.  While at Kent, she rowed all four years and she raced twice at the Head of the Charles regatta.  Gretchen also rowed for three years at University of North Carolina and was the captain and stroke of the Varsity 8+.  She later became a student coach of the novice rowing team at UNC.

Gretchen joined Olympia Area Rowing in 1983 when the club operated out of what is now the Rhythm & Rye. In 2008, she won first place in both the Women’s C quad and the Women’s D quad at the Northwest Masters Regional Championship along with teammates Alex Smith, Emily Garlich, Kris Norelius and Kiirsten Flynn.  Gretchen decided to begin coaching about five years ago and working with the junior team brought her tremendous joy. Her daughter, Zoe, also took up rowing in high school and currently rows for Gonzaga University.

Last month, Kiirsten Flynn and Gretchen Van Dusen asked the board of directors to name the Hudson 8+ in honor of Gretchen Steiger.  After a soft fundraising push for boat naming rights, the 8+ was named SteigerStrong and christened by Gretchen’s husband, John, and son, Alexei, on April 9th. Gretchen was aware of the boat name before she passed and it meant a lot to her to be honored in this way.

We have heard from quite a few people that they would like the opportunity to honor Gretchen’s memory and donate to the SteigerStrong boat naming fund.  If you have already made a donation, thank you. If you would like to make a donation, you may send it to:

Olympia Area Rowing
PO Box 7148
Olympia, WA  98507

Respectfully,
Rebecca Hellman, President
Olympia Area Rowing Association