Ramblings

Thoughts, ideas & convictions.

A Memorial for my Dad

My father suffered a massive stroke January 31, 2017 and passed away April 19th. Today we will celebrate his life. Tomorrow we will lay him to rest. I decided to share with you the eulogy and the video, both of which will be shared tonight.

My Dad

This man we’re here to honor this evening, Anthony Aloysius Stoeffler, was known to those of you gathered as many different names. Some of you knew him as Curly. Some as Steve. Some called him Uncle, others Grandpa. For me, he was Daddy and Dad.

Dad was born the fourth child to Otto Ludwig Stoeffler and Margaret Sinnwell of Guttenberg, Iowa. His Neumann grandparents had immigrated to the US. He attended St. Mary’s Catholic school and was known as a charming and sweet little boy…. wait. That was Uncle Donnie.

Dad was an imp. He wasn’t malicious, but he was a middle child and had to make himself known. Even as a boy he had a strong sense of justice. When he would see wrong being done, he would take action – especially if it involved family.

For example, his two younger brothers were being cheated at marbles by a boy whose mother aided him in his endeavors. Arman would take out his handkerchief to wipe his brow when he’d won the boys’ marbles. Arman’s mother, sitting on the balcony of their apartment would see and suddenly call Arman home. He would grab up the newly won marbles and rush home. The younger boys complained and young Aloysius determined to do something about it. The next time Donnie and Rollie knelt to play marbles with Arman, Dad was there, standing off to the side. When the handkerchief came out, and Arman’s mother beckoned, Dad lifted the young marble sharp from his feet, holding him up to permit the marbles to fall from his pockets all while his mama was yelling from the balcony. Dad had the boys pick up only their marbles then scoot home before he let Arman back down to his own feet.

Knowing my father to be an utter angel, I imagine the nuns at St. Mary’s must have had it in for him, because he said that ruler on the knuckles hurt a lot.

Life wasn’t easy in the little Mississippi River town in the 30s. My grandfather helped with the construction of Lock and Dam No. 10 on the Mississippi. He would tell the story of how he would run from school across the street to home, grab the hot meal his mother had prepared for Dad and run it the five blocks to the frozen river where he would deliver it to his dad. There was a mild incline, but not uphill both ways.

At age 12, he began helping the family financially by working on local dairy farms. He told me that he’d thought it was great that the “modern” farm had lights in the barns … until he realized that meant he’d be working while it was dark outside.

When he was 17, he’d had enough of school and believed the posters that said, “Join the Navy, see the world!” and he surely wanted to see the world. On March 5, 1941 his mother signed the papers to permit him to enlist. He was aboard ship when the news of the air raid at Pearl Harbor occurred.  He served in the North Atlantic, being part of the effort to protect merchant ships from German U-Boats; he served on LST-60 sailing into Omaha Beach on D-Day. After that war, he was sent to the South Pacific where he served on Guam and Saipan. When he received his wartime promotion to Chief, he was the youngest to receive that honor, aged 26. He was the last duty officer on Saipan. Then he was shifted to serve moving troops and supplies between Japan and South Korea. He was invited to join in Golden Glove boxing, but decided that wasn’t for him. Dad passionately loved this country.

When he got out of the Navy, he began life as a construction worker. He helped set pilings for most of the bridges along the east coast of Florida. It was while he was working on a bridge near Stuart, Florida that he met this gorgeous brunette from Arkansas. He courted her and they remained true to one another for the next 58 years. During that time, they had a beautiful baby girl – that’s me.  They also suffered the loss of two baby boys.

In the late 60s, work was scarce and money was tight, but Dad didn’t stop. He put his handy-dandy push mower and hand clippers in the trunk of the Oldsmobile and went to work keeping up others’ lawns for money. I can still picture the composition notebook he kept his records in so he’d know when which yard needed done and who had or hadn’t paid him.

Then he got a job in Kissimmee. This big amusement park was being built and he was hired to drive the piling for this special train they were putting in. It was called a “monorail” train. When he went to work there, I was still in school, so Mom & Dad sacrificed, keeping two homes for about three months so that I could finish 4th grade in Ormond before moving. Dad also helped build Space Mountain, the WEDway and other attractions at the Magic Kingdom, several of the hotels at Lake Buena Vista (now the area known as Downtown Disney).

Things got tight again and Dad made the choice to go to work in Indonesia and Turkey, building electric plants in each place.  When he finally came home, he had a brand new grandson – and his world was complete. He thought he’d hit the jackpot.

Later, when he and Mom moved to Tennessee, he helped remodel the Food City stores in Alcoa and on Kingston Pike.

Dad even used me as an employee on some jobs. He had me help on installation of guttering on duplexes on a Christmas vacation where he claimed I fell asleep on the ladder, and on another job where he was repairing termite damage. I’m not built to be a carpenter.

My dad loved deeply. When he chose to be your friend, he was your friend, period. There are men he met when working in the late 50s with whom he has stayed in touch!

Dad also never met a stranger. When my grandmother passed away, we rode straight through from Florida to Iowa. When we would stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Dad and his brother Roland would get out of the van and visit with the attendant there. Truly visit. Like long-lost friends. Before we’d leave a good 30-45 minutes later, the Stoeffler sons would know all about that attendant and his family! (For an introvert who can barely speak about the weather, that’s a marvel to me!)

Dad had two great loves outside his family: vegetable gardening and baseball. He was so excited when we moved to a place with enough ground to plant tomatoes, onions, peppers and potatoes. Even last year he had tomatoes, peppers, and onions – growing his garden in containers.

Dad was a fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. When we lived in Florida, we would go to several spring training games and when the Houston Astros built a training facility there, he was elated and we spend many hours there.

When Jack and I met, I was planning to move back to Florida. My parents had come up to assist me in that move. (Yes, plans changed. Check with me later for that story.) My parents, Jack and I were at lunch when my dad wandered onto the subject of the difference between Yankees and *** Yankees. He went on for a good 20 minutes. All three of the rest of us were rolling our eyes. Finally, this conversation happened:

Jack: So, Steve, where were you born?

Dad: Iowa.

Jack: And where do you live now?

Dad: Florida.

Jack: So, what does that make you?

Dad: **speechless**

That was the first time I’d ever seen my father embarrassed or speechless. His love language was embarrassment. If he could make me blush, he’d told me he loved me.

Later, after Jack and I were married, our back porch was blown away by a wind storm. Dad came up to help us replace that porch and build a deck on the front. His work crew was a few boys – Chris Bryant, Chris Love, Darrell Moss, and Travis. One of the days he had been working all day and Darrell and Chris Bryant got home from school. Dad asked Chris to bring him a glass of water. Chris brought just that. A glass of water. No ice. Dad’s quick temper… he tossed that water out of that glass – almost on Chris!

In 2012, we determined that neither Mom nor Dad needed to be driving. At first, Dad was kinda mad. Later he teased with us. If you spent 10 minutes with him, you’ve heard this litany:

First they took my car and sold it.

Then they took my lawn mower and gave it to my great grandson.

Next they sold my tiller.

All they left me with was my wheelbarrow and it’s got a flat tire!

I can’t go anywhere!

Some of you may have seen the peanut butter in this casket. Dad hated peanut butter, and it was always a source of much laughter. We would tease him about it and he’d pick right back. When Jack had his aneurysm, Dad sent him word that if he’d walk back through their front door, he’d eat whatever peanut butter cracker Jack wanted him to. And he did.

Here you’ve seen the candy dish. Anyone who visited Mom & Dad’s home knew that dish held orange slice candy. EVERY kid who visited knew to make that trip to the kitchen where Grandpa would open the candy dish and snuck them a piece of candy. Oftentimes to the ire of their mamas. He didn’t care.

We have this here tonight for you to enjoy. We hope that you will come by and “sneak” a piece of candy and enjoy it like my dad did. He’d be smiling.

As we walk away from tonight, please remember how Dad loved to laugh and joke. He endured much pain and turmoil, yet loved deeply and cared passionately. He asked about some of you every time I talked to him. Every. Time. Know that he never forgot you.

 

 

 

 

About Faye

Women's speaker, wife, mom & grandmother who loves to teach God's Word, drink coffee, cheer on her favorite football teams and capture nature and architecture with her camera. Faye is the author of Ramblings From the Shower | Integrity, Faith and Other Simple Yet Slippery Issues.

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