One of the city of Union’s longtime civic volunteers and an instrumental force in the founding of East Central College, Ray Steffens, passed recently.

Steffens, 92, died Oct. 7. His obituary, which appeared in the Weekend Missourian, mentioned he was very active in the community.

That is an understatement.

Over the years, Steffens volunteered with the Union Rotary, Jaycees, Franklin County Youth Fair Board and 4-H. In 1970, the Union Area Chamber of Commerce presented Steffens with its Distinguished Service Award.

Steffens also was active on the steering committee that promoted the establishment of the college and his behind-the-scenes work was critical in the founding of the college.

The first steering committee for the college submitted plans in the early 1960s to state education officials for the establishment of a junior college taxing district. The state initially rejected the application because it was believed that the planned district did not have enough assessed valuation to support a taxing district.

Plans remained dormant for several years, but a new committee was formed with the same objective but with wider county membership.

Steffens recognized the need and stepped up to serve on the new steering committee. As a staff member of the University of Missouri Extension Center in Union, he saw an opportunity to put the resources of the office behind the effort. It turned out to be a critical collaboration.

Steffens’ work and that of the extension office were a godsend to the committee in doing the groundwork and preparing the application that was submitted to the state. The application was approved, providing for an election to create a taxing district and the election of trustees to govern it. Voters gave the proposal a solid “yes.”

Steffens worked in the background, but his contributions were invaluable to the steering committee. Only a few members of that committee are still around. They can attest as to how important Steffens’ services were to the committee and the formation of East Central College. He was one of a handful of community visionaries whose efforts are still paying dividends today.