Sophie Steele College Fund

On 10/10/2017, one of my greatest childhood friends, Andrew Steele, passed away.  I am starting a college fund for his 6 year old daughter, Sophie Steele.  Hopefully this will ease her burden when she goes off to college one day.  

Below is a note from Andrew’s father, Ricky Steele, that he posted on his Facebook page. It does a great job showing the type of person Andrew was. He was a giver. Now it’s our time to give back and show him that we appreciated all he did. Sophie has a bright future, so let’s let her shine. 24907544_15089376690_r.jpeg

James Andrew Steele
8 22 1984 --- 10 10 2017

At appropriately 4:00pm on Tuesday, My son went home to be with the Lord. Andrew was diagnosed as being Bi-Polar with Extreme Anxiety shortly after his 17th birthday. Andrew was an Amazing son. He was a star of the Wheeler Tennis team playing right behind Robbie Ginepri, who later turned pro. Andrew was an amazing baseball player at Fuller's Park in Cobb Country and pitched the championship game for the final 3 innings and drove in a few runs.

Andrew was a natural leader and he loved everyone. Don't crack an ethnic joke in front of Andrew unless you wanted to receive a crack back. Don't ever try to take advantage of another person because they quickly had an ally who would could whip your butt. At Sope Creek Elementary in the second or 3rd grade, a few boys took the teacher's purse and they were going to take her money. Andrew fought for the purse and gave it back to the teacher.

For his entire time at Sope Creek, he was a winner of the President's physical fitness award and his name was on the gym wall every year. He was always loving to everyone and Andrew was given the Citizenship Award for being kind, living the Golden Rule and being supportive of everyone.
It is the only award voted on by and given by the students not the teachers. Andrew won this honor all 6 years while at Sope Creek Elementary School. On a side note and to brag on the greatest mother, Ever, Beth Steele, Andrew's older brother Everett and younger Sister, Rebecca also won the same award each and every year making us perhaps the only family that all three children were recognized for their kindness to others every year of their time at Sope Creek. I think God and mostly Beth for their fine upbringing.

When Andrew lived in Athens, he often rode around downtown to pick up homeless people. He would take them to Wal-Mart to buy them clothes and medicine then take them to his home for them to shower. I begged him not to do this because I believed it was unsafe.
Andrew said, you have always quoted the Bible about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and tending to those who are sick. Not much I could reply after that.

Andrew won many tennis tournaments from Marietta to Sandy Springs and Macon to Valdosta. He was gifted. Somewhere his Junior or Senior season we noticed a difference. His mood and mannerisms were not the Andrew we grew up with. Habits and some friends changed. The first Suicide attempt was to follow and since then our lives have been living Hell never knowing which call would be The Call.

After spending over $400,000 and years of our lives in Ridgeview Institute, Black Bear Lodge, CooperRiis, Michael’s House Treatment Center, and at least 2 or 3 others, nothing changed.

Mental Heath facilities blame the patients for not getting better. BS, they don't get better because you are just processing people through a broken system to gain a pay check.

Andrew has seen at least 6 to 10 "world class " psychiatrists over the years including "World Renowned" expert Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, who fired Andrew after a suicide attempt. I guess it was bad press to have a patient die since you did nothing to help him.

Andrew destroyed his body with alcohol and drugs to try to stop the pain in his head. More than one doctor told us that Andrew was not an alcoholic or a drug addict, Andrew self medicated to alleviate the tremendous pain in his head and heart.

The greatest part is that regardless of how far down Andrew sunk, he never quit loving. 11:00pm on Monday night after my presentation at RUMC Job Networking, I received a text from Andrew: "I was worried given the way you drive. Good Night and I replied: "Goodnight, Son".

We had two conversations on Tuesday and I left to pick up Beth at Rebecca's. In retrospect, I should have called 911 because he was acting strange but that was a daily occurrence. He may still be alive if I had done the right thing. That life could have been for 2 more weeks or 10 more years. I am so devastated that I did nothing. I m will live with this for the rest of my life.

The last major thing was at some point, he got out of the bed and I asked him what he was doing, he said. "Dad, can I just get a hug". I hugged him, kissed him and told him I loved him for the last time.

The medical examiner said that Andrew's death was not a suicide, Andrew's body just could not take any more and he died peacefully in his sleep. He was laying flat on his back just as he had been when I left him less than 2 hours earlier. The only change seemed to be a slight smile. There was no sign of panic, trouble or despair.

None of our lives will ever be the same for any of us especially, his precious daughter, Sophia Steele, who turned 6 yesterday to learn her loving, adoring father was dead.

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I have lost two parents, 2 parent in laws, aunts, uncles and many dear friends. We have known this day would probably come at some point but I was completely unprepared. All I can do is cry and pray.

"God help me and my family. Jesus, please give us strength. If you are a Prayer partner, feel free to lift one up for me, Beth, Everett, Rebecca, Sophie Ophie,, Chris, Zoe and Sweet Baby James.

I have been crying in buckets for what is now 40 hours and it may not let up for days. I cannot talk on the phone. Ask Bill Bolling, Robert Waters, Jay Litton, Allan DeNiro or Susan O'Dwyer, who are all my deep prayer warriors I called for their prayers. Most could not understand a word I said.

Love your family both in your home and all of God's children. Never forget to say I LOVE YOU.

Understand that our Mental Health System is a JOKE and my son and so many like Nuci Phillips, the namesake of Nuçi's Space, might still be alive if the system was not so broken. All people with mental health issues deserve better. Screw building a wall or reducing taxes on the riches of the rich. Fix Mental Health care and last week's tragedy in Las Vegas may never have happened!

Those of you blessed to know James Andrew Steele, you are richer from the experience. Those who never knew my baby boy, I am sorry for your loss. He was one of the finest boys and later men that I had ever known and my heart will never fully heal until I see Andrew again in the Father's House.

We will have an obituary at some point with a request for donations for one of the many causes Andrew supported with blood, sweat and tears, never any money because Andrew never had any money. Bill Bolling of the Atlanta Community Food Bank was one of Andrew's heroes, role models and inspirations just like Bill is to me. Bill Bolling will be flying back from Denver early Sunday to conduct a small service where we will bury Andrew's ashes at the base of what I know will become a beautiful tree. At some point, my ashes will join Andrew because there is no place on earth I would rather be than with my beautiful, beautiful boy.

My precious boy. I could not love you any more nor could I hurt any more than I do. My only sense of peace is that your Hell on earth for the past 16 years is over.

As you asked me many times to play this tune at our funeral, I always said, "Son, you will out live me and that was my deepest heart's desire.

It did not happen but the meaning of this song is now true for you, my Waffle House eating partner, Youngblood HAS Returned listening buddy, movie watching partner, Bull DAWG watching couch mate, and occasional camping and fishing buddy and to the very best friend a person could ever have.

In the words you would often quote to me in expressing how much pain you were in, my dear, dear most precious piece of my heart:

There will be valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There'll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me

Your family is weeping tears of great pain but also some of joy knowing that you have found your peace, my son.

Peace in the Valley:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VQS7e27pDw

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Organizer and beneficiary

Jake Slocum 
Organizer
Atlanta, GA
Debbie Slocum 
Beneficiary
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