QUICK AUTHOR’S PREFACE: I wanted to take a moment to set up this good man’s story. I happen to work at a retirement facility where I meet a lot of fascinating people. Senor Stoll (as I call him) is a resident of the facility who never fails to have a big smile on his face…and at 92 years of age is normally on an exercise bike too! It has been an interesting part of my job to hear about the lives of seniors. Mr. Stoll captured my attention from the start and I have enjoyed many fascinating pieces of his life’s journey. I hope you will too! This will be a multipacker boys and girls…as I get more of the recordings transcribed (uhhhh no kidding, from cassette tape!!) from the ol’ school machine I will be releasing additional parts. Thanks for reading…
In the spring of 1965, in Kansas City where I was teaching at the college… I was the academic Dean at the college, and I was living in Park Kansas in the suburbs. One of the departments in the city determined that the Dutch elm disease had affected hundred and 150,000 trees. I had two beautiful elm trees that line the walk in our front yard. They shaded the front yard beautifully and created a beautiful scenery for the entrance. The front yard was fenced in by chain link fence entirely. Like most everybody else, I lost my beautiful elms with the Dutch elm disease.
I had a friend who decided to make some extra money taking out trees. With all these dead trees all he needed was a ladder and a chainsaw. He was a teacher and had all summer! He eventually made it to my house to remove my elms. He was working off the ladder and letting the limbs fall. I told my children to stay in the house so that no limbs falling off the tree would endanger them. In cutting the limbs one fell with the small end catching on the 32,000 volt power lines. I was standing by the gate and all he said to me was “hold the gate open for me”, and he marched out holding the ladder straight up. The lines ran parallel along the street. Looking back, I don’t know why he didn’t carry the ladder horizontally.
He started through, he wasn’t looking up and I wasn’t looking up. Just the top rung of the latter caught the wire because the limb had caused it to sag. All I heard from my friend was “oomph”. He was gone instantly. Instinctively I reached out to grab the ladder just to try and save him. I reached out there to touch him and two hands grabbed my wrist to keep me from reaching him. I even looked around to see who was there. I was so surprised that there was no one out there in the street with me. In hindsight, I see that it was an angel of the Lord protecting me. They kept me or I would be dead as well! In Hebrews 1:14 Paul says “are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” Why did the Lord take my friend and not me? It was 52 years ago and he had a wife with three children and one on the way. I felt so sorry for her but think the Lord she was a strong lady!
Where God worked in the situation was at the funeral. We both went to the same church and there was school officials, city officials, firemen and policemen even from other districts, and the place was just jammed with each person hearing the gospel! Upon reflection, my friend did more in his death than he could have accomplished in a lifetime. Only time will tell the impact of the whole event. AUTHOR “so he was probably late 30s or 40?” Yes somewhere around there. I know I was right at 40 myself. AUTHOR “it probably took a lot of years to process this the way you’re telling me now. Creating anything tangible out of the whole tragedy”. I know for about six months after, I could still feel those hands around my wrist every day! Finally after six months it begin to dissipate. I am eternally grateful because if I had reached out like I tried, I would’ve been dead too. AUTHOR “when he came out of the gate he must not realize how close the wire was and how far down and sagged”. He never told me what he was going to do, just to open the gate.
I don’t think will ever know in this life how much he protected us and guided us… Only when we get to heaven. That is why every day when I get up I have my DayTimer packed with people to see places to go! Every day I get up and do my devotions… And I tell Him all that I have to do that day. I lay them out before You and if you want me to follow them today then great. If not and You would discombobulated them all that is fine with me too! Your way is far better than I can figure out myself. I fly by the seat of my spiritual pants! AUTHOR “the longer I go, the more I realize we are kind of supposed to… And I think that’s why people hinder their spiritual growth, because people want this laid out life as opposed to one guided”. There is nothing wrong with having your life laid out day by day… I was responsible for teaching three days a week, I was responsible for going to Notre Dame two days a week and taking care of my family and so forth. AUTHOR “SURE”. There were times when things would change and I didn’t always know that the changes coming on that given day. I can change anytime during the day, but I wasn’t always in that situation.
Are you familiar with the Schofield study Bible? AUTHOR: sure…sure. My dad went to college or seminary to Dr. Schofield who was the president school. My mother she had an older sister who came from Ohio… And her older sister was a student at the same school in the same class as my father. My mother went out to visit her sister one time, and she introduced her to my father. So I saw the Lords hand working in that from the beginning. I was born two or three years later! I was blessed to be raised in a home with a wonderful father and a devoted mother. I never heard my parents argue even once, they may have but I sure never heard it. They were always very kind and loving to each other. They always set a good example.
For an example I am going to give you a story from my time marital counseling. I had a couple in one session that had a dysfunctional relationship. We’ve been counseling together for a while and one particular session they brought their five-year-old. He was in the corner saying nothing as I was talking to his mom and dad. Finally I turned to him away from his mom and dad, and I said “tell me something, does your daddy really love your mommy?” The boy replied “oh…Dr. Stoll my daddy really loves my mommy.” I asked him, “How do you know that your daddy loves your mommy?” There wouldn’t be a counselor in all the world to tell you what he told me at five years of age! The boy replied “my daddy comes home from work, my mother is in the kitchen, and he comes into the kitchen and gives my mommy a little pat on the fanny. Boy does my dad love my mommy!” (We both laugh heartily). I bet that man did that every night and it goes to show you the unique perspective of a child. The father probably had no idea that his son picked up the cues and use that as an illustration of how he knew his daddy loved his mommy! He didn’t have to think that up, he was just answering my question!
Lord gives us parents, and I knew I had a father and a mother I could look up to. I knew they loved each other, loved me and my sisters, and we could trust them. They brought us up in the fear and admiration of the Lord. Never struggled with drinking, smoking, or any of that. I did childish things that all kids will do, but nothing ever really serious. When I think of the kids growing up smoking pot and drugs and all that I realize how great my parents were.
Here I am 92 today and the only thing that ever affected me was having polio in 1952, which affected my legs. That’s why I walk with a walker or scooter. When I came here I was on a cane after having both my knees replaced about 12 years ago… And later my hips. Back when I was at the Grace College the athletic director and I refereed basketball games. We refereed I school and college basketball around this area for 15 years. I beat the cartilage in both my knees. Go down the floor and you jam your knees to stop and go the other way… Back and forth you go. The doctor told me I would need a cane the rest my life between surgeries and my time having polio earlier in my life. Up until that time was highly active with refereeing, I built a house myself, and many more active things.
The house I built was at a camp in Wisconsin. Since I was a teacher in college I had the summers off. I worked at the camp doing a counselors training program. During the summer months I needed a place to live with my family. The camp agreed to give me a piece of their lakefront property where they owned 90% of the shoreline. I performed all the construction myself except for the well and the sewage. I did it all myself just because I enjoy doing it. As a kid during the depression, I would take my bicycle go around seeing how houses were being built. I would stand there for hours at a time watching them build houses. I imagine I bugged the life out of some of those carpenters! I would ask them “why do you do this and why do you do that”? I was picking up all these skills just because I enjoyed it. I didn’t know what I was to do with it I just enjoyed it.
I used 24 hand hewn beams from caved in barns around Wisconsin. I created my own blueprints. I would go around to farmers and ask permission to remove the beams from their old barns. I used those as support for the main structure of my cabin creating a rustic antique look. I found a wagon from an Amish farmer, using the back two wheels I cleaned them all up and blackened the iron. I put 5 hurricane lamps on there and had one in the living room and another in the dining. I had a nice screened in porch that overlooked the lake. AUTHOR’S NOTE: This cabin will come into play several times in John’s life as you will read later! It was for the summer sessions during those years and was ultimately dedicated back to the camp after John was finished with it.
I really only took junior high shop was the funny thing! I was only armed with a sense of adventure and what I learned as a kid hanging around construction. Do you remember what an orange crate was like? AUTHOR: Yes! John: I went through hundreds of orange crates. My father in high school had a fruit and vegetable man. He had a huge room in the back where he piled orange crates. One day I was at this shop and I asked if I could have one. He said, “Oh son sure you can have some orange crates!” He took me in the back and I thought I had died and gone to heaven…orange crates as far as the eye could see! The nice man said, “anytime you want some, come down and get all you want.”
In the coming months I made all sorts of creations with the two types of wood that an orange crate was made from. My dad had given me a piece of iron rail that I could straighten nails out on. I made all sorts of creations from wagons to race down the street to tree houses! This was all during the depression. I remember I said to my dad one day, “I would like to get a bicycle, but I don’t have the money because the one I want is $25.” Today of course that wouldn’t even be a down payment on one. He said, “if you can earn 12.50, I will put 12.50 toward it.” At that time we had spring floods in Sandusky Ohio where I grew up. Basements would be flooded and I would take my wagon around and pick up all the scrap iron and scrap. I worked at delivering scrap to the yard until I got my 12.50 to buy a Road Master balloon tire bike! That was the first money I earned making things and selling things. I had to be entrepreneurial in the depression era, it always helped me appreciate the value of things.
AUTHOR: In spite of the depression, apparently your dad had a job? John: Oh, he pastored a church…yes. At that time, before we moved to Pennsylvania, it was still the height of the depression and there was only one man working in the church! He was a mail carrier for the United State Government. He was working, but the rest of them were out. My dad would get paid at the end of the week once all the other bills were paid, and sometimes we got as high as $5!
I remember my father’s parents: grandma worked for a man on Lake Erie, who had a fishery. He had little tug boats that went out on the lake all day to put down nets and my grandmother kept house for him. He was a Jewish man and quite well to do and every Friday morning (I can still see it now) I would see him come: I thought it was a limousine, but I guess it was only a Buick because we drove small Fords! I said to myself ‘when I get to be his age I’m gonna buy a car like that.’ So I had ideas! He would come in from the back of the car, he had a chauffeur and everything. The meat would be packed in pink packing paper back in those days. He would hand her a bundle of meat and an envelope with $5 inside. We lived on a $5 bill for a long time! We don’t know how He did it, but He sent an angel of the Lord through this man to help provide for us!