The Day I Met Steve McQueen
My children were only 6, 7 and 11 years of age when I began a small business to supplement my husband’s sporadic income. The name of my business was called Final Touches Cleaning Company. I would clean up new construction sites and large fancy homes that were being remodeled. A friend of mine, named John Daly, was a carpenter, and I had cleaned his family’s home on a regular basis. I knew John worked for people who were well-known celebrities. His carpentry business grew as word got out about his skill and integrity. I also knew he was good friends with the actor Steve McQueen, who was someone I admired because he seemed so unpretentious. I was very surprised when John called me one day and asked me to do the cleaning for a farmhouse he was remodeling in Santa Paula; owned by Steve. It was a ways to travel but I would be foolish to pass on such an opportunity.
My friend Debbie often worked with me, and we would take our children to our friend Marie’s house. The children were all friends and had great fun together but Marie was always a little frazzled when we returned. Debbie and I snatched the opportunity to eat out without children at a famous omelet place in the town of Carpinteria on the way to the McQueen ranch. They served 100 different omelets which equals 100 different choices.
When we arrived at the town we saw groves of citrus trees everywhere; a quiet little step-back-in-time town; a pretty little rock-lined creek winding through lovely shady oak and maple trees; and best of all – not a stitch of traffic. The sleepy little town had its original old western-style store fronts, the streets were lined with Victorian homes and the hills were dotted with old-fashioned farmhouses. We stopped to ask directions to the ranch because it was hidden amidst the citrus groves, and the street signs had tiny unobtrusive print. We finally found the house but didn’t believe it was the one we were looking for because it surely couldn’t belong to a celebrity. A simple pale yellow farm house set off the road – with no neighbors in sight. An old gray pick-up, with a split-type window, sat in the dirt driveway. A horse corral, very close to the house, was sending out clouds of fine dust, from the horses kicking up their heels.
Our friend John met us in the driveway and led us into the house. He was still finishing the construction, so there was dust covering the beautifully finished hardwood floor. Replicas of old antiques gave the farmhouse its rustic appeal. The bathroom had the antique kind of toilet that hung high on the wall – with a pull chain flusher. Steve kept the original motorcycle, from The Great Escape movie, in his bedroom. I met Barbara, Steve’s wife, who was a natural dark-haired beauty, and a very warm person. She put us at ease immediately. She began asking me many questions about how to keep the floors clean, and what cleaning products to use on the brass water faucets. I felt pretty important because I knew the answers to all her questions.
I enjoyed the daily trips to the farmhouse just for the beauty of the drive. When we were stuck in traffic on the two-lane highway, Debbie and I would play a card game on the seat to make the long trip more bearable.
I met Steve only once in the two weeks we worked there. He was soft-spoken, and down-to-earth. He had deeper creases around his piercing blue eyes than I had pictured. My meeting was very brief and cordial as he had more important things to do than stand around talking with an ordinary house-cleaner. I respected him because I knew about the odds he had to overcome through his growing up and teen years, yet he didn’t let adversity flatten him as a human being. Meeting Steve helped me see that he was just an ordinary guy after all. I know he was because I cleaned his ordinary toilet – the old-fashioned one, with the pull chain flusher.
Steve passed away that year after battling mesothilioma cancer – caused by his many years of working with asbestos on a Navy ship. He made his peace with God, in the months before he died, after many soul-searching talks with my friend John. My brother-in-law, David, also flew out to the Santa Paula airport to give him advice as a doctor. Steve made a request of Billy Graham, to fly out to his home to pray with him, before he died.
As I prepared to write this story, I found a large book about Steve McQueen’s life at my local library. I saw John Daly’s name mentioned in the book. I may never see my name in a celebrity’s book as an important person but all that really matters is that – my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, Rev. 21:27b, (NLT). I matter to God. IT IS FINISHED!!!