Today is Veteran's Day. This day will forever remind me of Papa Stan. He was one of the best men I have ever had the fortune to call family. He was the patriarch of the Stemps for almost 90 years, and in most ways still is. He led them with pride, honor, loyalty and joy. He loved our kids with his whole heart and I am thankful for every moment we spent with him.
Stan's family originated in Poland and he is first generation American. His family homesteaded in the Puyallup Valley during the Great Depression, offered solace to traveling hobos, made raspberry wine in the barn, and took care of their kin.
Stan weighed 1.5 pounds at birth and was one of the first of a long line of Stemps to graduate from Puyallup High School, my husband included, and kept our family rooted in Polish traditions.
He also served in the Navy during World War II. Stan is a member of the Greatest Generation, one who met his bride at a USO dance in Tacoma and knew it was love at first sight, as he put it..."would you take a look at her gams!" (translation - she had great legs!). He was my first family member to have served in the armed forces and gave me a new perspective and pride for my country. His band, The Rhythm Kings, played all over the South Pacific while they were on tour and no one could play the accordion quite like Papa Stan.
Every summer we compared garden notes, what was growing well, what was struggling, and he always had an old farm trick up his sleeve to help me on my way. He was a wonderful wood carver, painter and the family geneologist and was "green" before it was trendy. That was just the way he grew up. He was fiercely passionate about his country, and there was nothing that could come between him and his love for his family. Stan lived life fully.
Papa Stan has been gone for a little over a year and I often find myself reminiscing about something he did or said, or just his laugh and big bear hugs, and I find myself tearing up again....like I am now as I write this. Our sweet daughter spent almost every week of her first four years climbing into his lap and misses him dearly. She still draws him pictures that we put in the mailbox for angels to deliver to Papa in heaven.
I hope you all have a Stan in your lives. Someone who stands for what they believe in and loves you and your family wholeheartedly. On this Veterans Day I want to say thank you to the families that have answered the call of duty and are or have served our country. My family is grateful for your commitment and your sacrifice.
And to Papa, we give a toast to you, Na Zdrowie, we know you are heating up the dance floor in Heaven. Roll out the barrel.
If you would like to thank a service member, please comment below. Thank you!