Violet Steinbacher, 92, known for her costumes, upholstery and art

Violet “Vi” Bebell Steinbacher has worked alongside men all her life, never seeming to care what other people think.

She was the first female draftswoman in the Erie city planning office for several years, “retiring” to raise her two boys, according to 56-year-old Raymond Steinbacher III. But Violet Steinbacher had a funny idea of ​​retirement. She then started two full-time family businesses, costume making (she left thousands of them which are now in storage) and upholstery, now continued by her younger son Robert Steinbacher, 52.

Violet Steinbacher died at age 92 on July 10.

Her surviving husband, worked as a major appliance salesman at Sears, retiring from the mall in 1998.

“She told how the guys in town in the late 50s and early 60s didn’t like a woman working there,” said her eldest son, Raymond Steinbacher III. “She had a man’s job, no secretary. But she was a pioneer, one of the first women to work in the planning department. They didn’t even have a women’s toilet.”

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Violet’s husband, Raymond Steinbacher Jr., said the discrimination bothered her, but not enough to give in and quit.

“She was a great libertarian of women,” said Raymond Steinbacher III.

He said his colleagues eventually got used to her, as she had been there for several years. “A lot of guys who didn’t like women doing the job they were doing, they ended up treating her like one of the guys. She could handle it. She grew up with brothers. She held on. “

costume queen

After leaving the planning office, Violet, a skilled seamstress, began making costumes. Raymond Steinbacher III said she made thousands of them that are currently sitting in a warehouse, and before COVID hit, they were still renting them out for Halloween.

Violet Steinbacher made thousands of costumes in her lifetime, specializing in mascots with oversized heads.

She made the first mascot costume for the SeaWolves mascot, C. Wolf. One of Raymond Steinbacher Jr.’s fondest memories is the day the SeaWolves opened the season at Ainsworth Field and gave the family free tickets to the game because she made the costume. While they were there, the announcer called Violet Steinbacher to the field. She was chased away in a convertible, in the back, waving to fans as she drove through the park.

“I think it was the surprise of her life,” said Raymond Steinbacher Jr. “I was so proud of her. I’ll never forget her.”

Costume making continued.

“Every day was Halloween at our house,” said Raymond Steinbacher III. “My brother and I would always try them on for her to measure, and she would always poke us with pins.”

From left to right, Robert, Violet and Raymond Steinbacher Jr. celebrate Robert's birthday.

He said it got to the point that he and his brother weren’t welcome at Halloween costume contests.

“They always said we couldn’t compete because we always won,” said Ray Steinbacher III with a laugh.

Violet Steinbacher worked late into the night on costumes she made for clients around the world.

The family even planned vacations based on the type of fabric they needed, regularly returning to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls when they needed another batch.

Raymond Steinbacher III said she did everything by show of hands. She was constantly refining her techniques, starting with papier-mâché balloons and newspaper. Then she moved on to sculpted foam. She wouldn’t even use patterns. She saw it in her head.”

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Robert Steinbacher worked closely with his mother on costumes and later on upholstery.

“‘I used to go to JoAnne (Fabric’s) to buy materials,’ he said. ‘We would get some weird looks when we were there and she was holding some fabric and saying, ‘ Do you think that sounds like a language?””

She also got into the habit of calling the zoo for research when trying to figure out what an animal costume should look like.

“She was calling and asking if otters had eyebrows and eyelashes,” Robert Steinbacher said. “She was looking at all the animals and asking about them.”

Steinbacher upholstery

Being a world-class costume designer wasn’t enough for Violet Steinbacher.

“She started upholstery as a hobby when we were kids and made it into a business as well,” said Raymond Steinbacher III. “My brother still runs this business today.”

Together, Violet and Robert Steinbacher taught upholstery classes at Academy High School, Erie Central Technical School, and Erie County Vocational-Technical School, where Violet Steinbacher first learned upholstery.

They must have taught it well.

“Everyone loved him,” Robert Steinbacher said. “We always get condolence cards from former students. People who moved to Florida. It’s just amazing.”

Award-winning Erie artist

Violet Steinbacher was a talented artist and won awards for her works depicting animals and landscapes.

She was also a talented artist. Raymond Steinbacher III was said to have created visual art in many mediums, including oils, pastels, acrylics, watercolors, and pencil and even charcoal drawings. She leaves behind several hundred works of art, he said, declining to pick a favourite.

“I love them all,” he said.

“Her subjects were animals and landscapes,” he said, adding that she frequently exhibited her art at Asbury Barn, where a once-annual exhibition called the Millcreek ArtShow was held, where she won so many awards as she put it in the “professional” category. .

Violet Steinbacher painted with the help of her cat, Ninja.

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The violet was not a wallflower

Violet Steinbacher loved animals and painting.  She has never been without a pet or a project.

“She never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something,” Robert Steinbacher said. “She was an outgoing, dynamic, creative and intelligent person. She accomplished so much.”

“She was just amazing,” said Raymond Steinbacher Jr., to whom she was married for 62 years. “She was into everything. She just comes to her. Painting, costumes, you name it, she could do it all. She even painted the living room and the dining room. Everything is pink. The whole house. We even gave her offered a pink coffin.”

“It was just a passion with her,” he said. “If she wanted to do something, she just had to do it. She was going to do it, no matter what it was.”

Contact Jennie Geisler at Follow her on Twitter @AND NGeisler.