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Former photographer from SE Mo. captures moments

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012

His work with the school paper caught the attention of the local newspaper, The Athens Messenger. They contacted him to work for them. The paper had a 9-by-17 blank page the photographers had to fill.

In 1969 he did a spot on the owner of The Hilltop Restaurant in Athens, Ohio. She was referred to as Mom Pennell. According to Steinhoff, she would talk about college students that visited her or servicemen she would give money to for bus tickets.

The morning after the story ran, Steinhoff watched customers coming in, each giving Pennell a copy of the article. He said that's when he realized he had the power to elevate ordinary individuals.

"I became hypersensitive to the events that surround you," Steinhoff said. "The ordinary people idea came from that."

After a stint at the Gastonia Gazette in North Carolina, the Palm Beach Post became his home for the next 35 years where he did a variety of jobs. He retired in 2008.

A book on the Smelterville area of Cape Girardeau is in the works for Steinhoff. He is tracking down people in the images he found from 1966 of Smelterville. He has gone to reunions and circulated photos hoping to find connections.

"I interviewed a woman that had a photo of her mother that had been passed around," Steinhoff said. "She said she did not have a picture of her and had almost forgotten her face. She told me she had the photo on the seat of the car next to her and looked at it and had to pull to the side of the road and let the tears fall."

She told him his photograph had captured her soul.

Steinhoff will present an electronic component of his exhibit to a small group at a date to be determined later this month at the Immigrant Conference at the Lutheran Heritage Center. Jordan said that there would also be an 1850s folk art wood carving, from Herb Graupner's collection, of the life of Jesus on display.

The Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum was created to care for the log college seminary. It has expanded to a museum with a gallery and has 4,000 square feet of archives. Families have free access to research genealogy back to Germany.

"People come from all over the county and Germany to do research with us," Jordan said.

The next exhibit will be the eighth annual Luther's Indoor Walk Through the Woods. Forty Christmas trees will be displayed throughout the museum and galleries from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15.

"It's unbelievably gorgeous," Jordan said. "Magical inside the museum."