Alan Lee Stokes
January 31, 1926 – July 20, 2020
Our father Alan Lee Stokes Son, father, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather. Sailor, engineer, welder, machinist, mechanic, school-bus driver, farmer, hunter. An independent man, a solitary man with few friends, some acquaintances, straight words and strong opinions. Hard to know, harder to please. Tougher than leather.
• His favorite song: "Ghost Riders in the Sky." • His favorite saying: "If you can't beat the bastards, outlive them."
Born an only child, his father and mother divorced, he spent his early years in the care of relatives, aunts and uncles, and cousins. He always spoke fondly of his first memories of living with Aunt Ruby Wynn and cousins in Cottage Grove, Oregon, and his best childhood friend. He also lived with his Aunt Nell and Uncle Tiny, and later with Aunt Irene and his other cousins. In later years, his cousins described him as ‘aloof’ and a loner. He was. He was a practical and intelligent man, after a short tour in the Navy at the end of WWII, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State University. Even so, he never gave himself full credit for his abilities, working as a skilled laborer instead. He could fix anything that was broken, preferring independence rather than reliance on others. He taught me a lot; how to repair anything, how to be self-reliant, how to be frugal. As a child, I built a go-cart and he showed me how to make a steering wheel for it. We fired a water-powered bottle rockets, flew a kites, and he taught me to shoot a rifle, a pistol, how to hunt, and how to fix a car. We never played catch.
Sally remembers swimming with him in our backyard pool every day when he came home from work. He taught her archery, and how to set targets on hay bales for practice. He taught us how to save, never giving us what we asked for without requiring us to pay half. This is how we acquired roller skates, new bicycles, and other things, teaching us the value of work and money. Once, I lent him $10, and he wouldn’t return it until I provided the IOW … three years later. There were many lessons there.
When Sally wanted to enroll in a study abroad program in college, he asked her “why would you want to do that?” She went anyway; independent, inquisitive, and strong, she traveled to Greece and elsewhere, learning about the world as she went.
As a teenager, I watched him change. Maybe it was me instead. I wanted to see the world, he wanted the security of being with family: his wife; children; myself, Crystal (ne’e: Susan); and Sally; his mother Bonnie Champagne Stokes, and Aunt Frances Champagne Roberts. After a brief period of what I see as the conflict of changing into an adult, I left, joining the military for 30 years. We communicated by mail mostly, some phone calls. Always to the point, always business-like. Usually about work, money, cars, hunting or farming. Always something to be done or needing attention. Never really developing a close relationship. He wasn’t like that. He never offered a hug, or embrace; I never heard an “I love you, son.” I don’t think he knew how, he wasn’t raised that way. His visions hadn’t changed for me though. He wanted me to be a farmer. We grew separate.
I saw him change again in his later years. Or, was it me? He was isolated, his one childhood friend gone now. Some contact with distant relatives who he didn’t know well. His first wife, my mother Shirley, left. His second wife, Frances Hubbard Stokes passed away 24 years ago, as did his partner, Fay Bartmess, who passed just one month exactly, before he did. We honor them here today too. And we bury him here next to Frances, his second wife.
Our family discussed what would go on his grave marker. It was an interesting discussion as we all had differing memories of him. Some humorous, some serious. Some that brought pain, but all reflecting his way of thinking, and our collective memories of him. In summary, they reflect a man who was independent, a loner, who didn’t like authority, was wary of people’s motives. There were many on the list, and here are but a few: 1. Father, hunter, farmer 2. You’re with me or against me 3. Outlive your enemies 4. Damn the county 5. Hard as leather 6. Give me my rifle 7. The hard road less taken 8. This, I can’t fix 9. Hope was a stranger 10. ALS OR 238199 (he labeled everything) 11. Respice in nubibus (Latin for “look for the clouds”) We decided that this last one was perhaps most appropriate for several reasons. Here’s why: • He was a farmer, so you’d think rain would be his friend. • Even so, his hay crop, after being mowed or bailed always was rained upon. • His disposition was always cloudy • Perhaps he’s up there above the clouds now … looking down at them • He loved the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and he wanted it played at his funeral
Dad, you outlived them all, and gave up that ghost at high noon, 20 July, 2020 We will now play your favorite song. “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
Respice in nubibus. Look to the clouds. Ride high, father!
Thursday, July 30, 2020