Charles E. Steinheimer started his career as a photographer shooting pictures for the 1937 Quad. But it was an expedition to Mexico that launched him as a globe-trotting photojournalist. In 1938, he and a photographer buddy, Hart Preston, '32, traveled the length and breadth of the country. They sold the results of their work to fledgling Life magazine, which published a 17-page photo-essay on the life and ways of Mexico. Both men were immediately hired as staff photographers. Life assigned Steinheimer to cover the West and Midwest from a base in Chicago.
That early success was typical for Steinheimer, who died at 81 in September of a cerebral hemorrhage. Good luck put him in the right place at the right time, but he capitalized on it with brains and hard work. "He was quite a technical wizard with the camera," says Preston. "He knew the science of photography backward and forward."
When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Steinheimer joined the U.S. Navy. Commissioned as a lieutenant, he put his photographic talents to work filming some of the most ferocious battles of the Pacific theater, including the harrowing combat at Iwo Jima. Much of the classic film Victory at Sea was shot by Steinheimer.
His technical aptitude eventually led him out of photo-journalism. In 1953, he joined a group of engineers at Ampex Corp. and helped develop the first videotape recorder. From there he went to work selling X-ray equipment for Picker International, where he worked until he retired in 1979.
Fortune intervened again in his life in 1974. While having lunch with a friend in San Francisco, he ran into an old girlfriend from Stanford, Dorothy Gaff, '35. The two began dating again and finally married in 1979. They stayed together until his death in September.
Married five times, Steinheimer is survived by his son, Bruce; four daughters, Sara Mary Anderson, Vickie, Alice and Sue; and stepchildren David Ehret and Gayle Ehret Cunningham, '74.