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In memory of Dad August 23, 2011

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.
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Today, my family and I laid to rest our beloved Dad. I was honored with the opportunity to share memories from my brothers and sisters—in addition to my own reflections—during today’s funeral service. It’s impossible to summarize such a magnificent life, but I hope this entry will provide you some insights about our father, Joseph Stella.

Kathy

One of my best childhood memories was when Dad made kites for us.  He would go to the lumber store and buy some thin sticks and glue newspapers together—then use some of his old neckties for the tail.

One morning, I was about 8 or 9 years old, I decided to fly the kite on my own. I saw Dad, down on his knees, sanding a car in front of the garage. Within a few minutes of successfully launching my kite, I carelessly let go of the ball of string and the kite went sailing out across the backyard and into the weeds behind it.  I screamed out that the kite had gotten away, and he jumped to his feet and took off across the yard—running as fast as he could—until he chased that kite down and brought it back to me.  I think he would have chased it to the end of the world for me. That’s just the kind of dad he was.

In the past few years, Dad had many doctor appointments in Rochester, and I would always take him to make sure he could hear what the doctors were saying—and also that he would tell the truth when asked certain questions.

He would always ask me, “What time should I be at your house?”  If the appointment was at 2 p.m., I would say 1:15 knowing he would probably be a little late.  I’d look for him at 1:30—then begin to get mad around 1:40 when he still hadn’t appeared.  Just a few minutes later, as my blood pressure started to rise, I would see that brown Chevy Cavalier come slowly around the corner with Count Basie blaring on his CD player.

As he pulled into my driveway, I could see the brightly colored sunglasses he’d wear (which probably belonged to Mary) and he would give me that Joe Stella grin, and I just couldn’t be mad any longer.

When we were kids, everyone always said how lucky we were to have such a great dad.  They were right.  I had the best dad ever, and my kids had the best Grampa and Great Grampa ever!

Love you, Dad, and I’ll miss you everyday.

Bob

As a small child growing up, going to war had no meaning to me. But my dad had all these friends who would, at any time, lay down there lives for one another. This crazy bunch of men truly was the Band of Brothers—a friendship that lasted for over 70 years.

Thank you, Dad, for showing us the true meaning of love and respect for one another.

Pattie

Dad had his own language.  At the age of 9 or 10, I remember asking my mother, “What does ‘stratonduton’ mean?”  Mom answered that it didn’t mean anything.  It was a made up word that Dad and his Army buddies came up with while serving overseas.  It was only one of many such words.  To me, ‘stratonduton’ does have a meaning.  It’s a word that means friendship, and camaraderie, and fun—as only Dad would describe it.

And then there were childhood memories of Christmas.  All children love the arrival of the Christmas tree.  But for us, we didn’t just have a ‘Christmas’ tree—we had a SILVER Christmas tree that was painstakingly painted by Dad down in the paint shop.  Once the tree was standing tall, he would put up very special lights.  You remember the colored lights that would bubble when plugged in?  My current, artificial, very green, very real looking Christmas tree, just doesn’t measure up.

I have lived in California for almost 33 years.  My house is nestled in the center of a grove of Valencia Oranges.  When Dad would come to visit, or I would return to visit him, a box of oranges usually came along.  I am sure some of you here have tasted these fabulous oranges.

Well, Dad, I am sure that the oranges in heaven are as sweet, or sweeter, than the ones you picked off my trees.  I will never pick another one, when I won’t think of you.

Chris

For the past 3-and-a-half months, my family and I—and close friends—have sat with Dad as he fought to recover from heart surgery. In that time, we all received multiple phone calls, text messages, and even welcomed visitors to his room wishing and hoping for his full recovery.

It’s hard to imagine that a man 92-years-old would know so many people—young and old—that cared so much for him. We got to hear many stories about our dad—some funny, some sad, and others that would just touch your heart.

He once said at a party he hosted that he just liked people. I think that’s an understatement. A good friend of mine recently told me that he didn’t have many people he thought of as heroes, but Joe Stella was his hero. That says it all.

I love my dad and will miss him more than he’ll ever know. Thank you, everyone, for coming and sharing our dad’s life.

Paul

As I reflect on Dad, I can’t help but recall his sense of adventure. Not as any sort of daredevil necessarily, but he did not like being confined at home. He enjoyed being out – somewhere! Doing things!

That took many forms – including frequent visits to “the track” in Batavia, weeknight cards games at the K of C, and simply holding court with friends in the backroom at Stella Collision.

This also included travel. Vegas? Of course! But my siblings and I also recall each summer included a family vacation. For them, it meant the annual car ride to Canada and a week at Wasaga Beach. One of the advantages of being youngest was a gradual uptick in the quality of the summer destinations.

Shortly after the demise of the Wasaga Beach era, I recall plans for the first-in-a-series of trips to Ocean City, Maryland. I was probably 10, maybe 11. It excited me, and I couldn’t resist the urge to pull out the road maps and study our likely route there. I still wonder if my true calling isn’t a job as travel advisor at Triple-A.

Anyway, come travel day, things were progressing smoothly. Having crossed into Maryland, heading south on Interstate 83, I recognized we were within a few miles of a critical juncture. I sat in the backseat, behind Mom, with maps close at hand.

“Dad,” I said, “Coming up is where you need to take Route 695.”

He disagreed. “No,” he said, “We need to stay on 83 and go through Baltimore.” But I sensed some hesitation in his voice, so I continued to press my case.

“No,” I replied, “695 will take us around Baltimore, and then we…”

He interrupted. “Be quiet, Paul.” So I complied, and the exit for 695 went flying by.

A relatively short distance later, I-83 reached an abrupt end, and we found ourselves somewhere in not-so-welcoming inner city Baltimore. After some recalculating, Mom and Dad figured out our escape, and soon we were back en route to the Maryland shore.

“You were right, Paul,” Dad later conceded. I was grateful for his concession, and smart enough to accept it with little fanfare.

I share this as one of the few times Dad may have lost his orientation. Throughout his life, he maintained a firm sense of direction. And he never failed to point the way for others. Without even knowing, he did so by setting an example.

He loved life, and he was passionate about having fun. And it was infectious. People enjoyed being in his presence, and he often taught them it was okay to let go of their troubles, if even just for a while.

But he also worked hard—made an honest living. And he did well for himself in the process. Don’t think that didn’t make an impression on his kids. Each chose a different vocation, but we applied the same work ethic that Dad exemplified throughout his lifetime.

And speaking of family—nothing came ahead of family. I’ll never forget the day I presented him with a picture of Austin. “I’m going to make that boy your grandson,” I told him. I actually worried a bit about how he’d react—I mean, his bachelor son adopting a teenager?

But as the smile widened across his face, he pointed at me and said, “I’m happy for YOU!” Why would I suspect otherwise.

Family. It really mattered more than anything to Joe Stella. He recently reminded us of that—literally pointing it out—in the moments leading up to his surgery, as we gathered at his bedside.

“1-2-3-4-5,” he said as his index finger bounced from each of his children. “They’re all here.”

We still are, Dad.

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Comments»

1. Janine Schmidt - August 23, 2011

What a special and loving tribute to your Dad….cherish the memories and he will always be right there in your hearts. He must have been a wonderful daddy, look at how all of you turned out….he had to have been so very proud. I offer my heartfelt condolences on your loss, when you are feeling sad and missing him in those quiet moments when you are alone, you just might see him, feel him or hear him very close by…….Love to all of you.

2. Debbie Ferris - August 23, 2011

What a beautiful tribute to such a wonderful man, he will truly be missed by all of us!

3. Paul - August 23, 2011

Paul, I had a hard time getting through all what you had written. Reflecting back on all of our conversations over the past 25 years since we graduated college, I don’t think one passed without a conversation concerning your Dad, and what he was up to, and how amazing it was, and he was, to be able to do what he did at his age. We would all be so thankful to have a life such as your Dad’s. He’s definately a tough act to follow, but I see you following close behind.

All the best,
Paul

4. Christine Corrado - August 23, 2011

Paul, your father clearly raised 5 beautiful children, and although I never had the privilege of meeting him, it’s also clear that he lives on through them–perhaps most especially through you. My prayers are with you all.

5. Laura Williams - August 23, 2011

My family loved your father, particularly at Halloween time. He would dress up in that crazy mask and sit on the front porch at Bob and Suzanne’s. Great memories.

6. Rick Wickson - August 23, 2011

Well said Paul. Your dad was a special man and I was lucky to have spent time with him. I always loved talking to him with that smile and personality. He was one of the best guys to bs with ever. Your family will miss him. I will miss him as much. Thanks to your family for sharing him all these years.

7. Anne Marie Canale Stalnecker - August 23, 2011

Paul,
So glad you put this on here; it was touching and we all wanted to remember exactly what you said .. now we have it. Thank you, for sharing this with all of Joe’s friends. Blessings for you, Austin, and the rest of the Stellas.
Best,
Anne M. Canale

8. Norma Holland - August 24, 2011

What a fantastic way to honor a man who gave you all so much–life, even! I only wish I could have met him, but I’m certain that I’ll encounter his essence every time I speak to one of you.

9. maureen Caufield - August 25, 2011

Paul and Austin,

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family! What a wonderful tribute to your Dad/Grandpa!!

Sincerely,
Maureen & Bill Caufield

10. The middle-aged man in the mirrow « Stellavision - April 29, 2012

[…] our Dad died last August, the family has stayed busy addressing his estate. The house is the one remaining piece, and soon a […]


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