While the Christmas season is one of both happiness and holiness, it also comes at the end of another year, a year of change where many had to say good-bye to loved ones.
One such person was Stanley Sites, who died in late October, leaving behind many friends, in addition to five daughters — Martha (Marty), Betsy, Susan, Molly and Mary.
It was Stanley’s buoyant mindset, no matter life’s obstacles, his willingness to help with projects, his genuine concern for those less fortunate and his distinctive personality that made him singular.
The 1948 St. Rose High School graduate and Navy veteran applied considerable muscle to both community projects and especially Catholic school fundraisers, many long after his brood of seven, with the largest gap between any of his children just 14 months, left the halls of Lima Central Catholic.
I got to know Stanley and his daughter Susie much better years ago when both agreed to help market the biography I wrote on the University of Findlay football coach Dick Strahm. Since Susan lives in Warren, where Coach Strahm achieved great success coaching Warren Western Reserve before moving to the collegiate ranks, she would promote the book there while Stanley covered the Lima area. Of course, neither expected a nickel’s worth of recompense.
Guided by faith
In communicating on an almost daily basis with Susie to gather material for this remembrance, I began to appreciate on a much deeper level the special qualities possessed by both Stanley and his beloved wife, Patricia.
Stanley lost Pat in 1996 after years of health issues that first surfaced in the 1970s. There was also the intense sorrow of two predeceased children, Sally, who died in 1980 so shockingly after a one-day illness, victimized by meningococcal meningitis at 18 just after her LCC graduation, and his only son, Tim, in 2014.
Stanley’s daughter Susan recalls the strength of both his faith-filled mother and father just after Sally’s death,
“Both Mom and Dad impressed upon all of us that at the showing we were to keep our heads high and focus on letting everyone know what a gift from God Sally was. They actually spent more time at the funeral home consoling others than being consoled.”
Sally’s passing wasn’t the first time Stanley had to summon the strength to overcome the loss of a loved one. There was his brother, Bobby, who, in 1952, drowned along with the entire crew of 176 of the USS Hobson after it collided with the aircraft USS Wasp in the largest maritime loss of life since World War II.
As for Stanley, the caregiver, in addition to his 34-year career as a Met Life insurance salesman, he provided care for his wife Pat during her illnesses in addition to tending to the needs all those stair-step children. He also looked after his sister Barb, who was both physically and emotionally challenged after falling off a porch at just six months old, and, at different times, provided both a roof and care for both his mother and mother-in-law.
Recalls Susie, “I frankly don’t know how he did it other than to say he was wonderful at juggling what he perceived to be his duties and making sure no one ever felt slighted.”
All one family
Examples abound where Stanley’s concern for others also reached far beyond his own family. Both he and Pat routinely took in Catholic charity babies until homes could be found. He also fostered for a time two African-American teen-aged girls whose mother was dying of cancer.
Recalls Susie, “I remember one time, in particular, he took us all out to Springbrook Pool to swim, and he was told when we entered that our two guests wouldn’t be allowed in the pool. He absolutely stood his ground, and guess who won that battle? My dad, or Stanley as I referred to him with my friends ever since I realized years ago that he was not only my father, but my best friend. He never stood for anything unjust, especially racism, and especially if the inequity involved kids.”
There were also many times when he arranged financial help for those in need and that other time when he provided frequent rides to and from OSU-Lima for a disabled teen who had no transportation. And, of course, there was that dramatic moment back in 1969 when he, while making an insurance call, rescued a baby from a burning house.
Additionally, there were all those worthwhile efforts on behalf of St. Gerard and LCC, too numerous in their entirety to mention. He began the CYO program at St. Gerard and coached any sport that needed a mentor, both boys and girls, and even was the one often sweeping the gym floor and grooming the ball diamond. He also was a lector for over 40 years at Mass as well as the loudest singer at any Mass he attended.
Recalls Susie with a laugh, “The Ursuline Nuns loved Stanley because he was their top seller for their Cherry Blossom Festival tickets.”
As for his love of LCC, he served as the president of the school’s board and initiated the project for the school’s Veterans’ Wall as a means to honor those who attended Lima’s Catholic schools and paid the ultimate price for their service to their country. And, ever the salesman, he also sold every raffle ticket and load of mulch imaginable. Ever the sports fan, he never missed an LCC game, either in person or listening on the radio later in life when his own health challenges emerged. As his daughter and caregiver for his last several years, Marty will tell you, God forbid unless you want to be shushed that you talk over an LCC game broadcast.
For his service to both St. Gerard and LCC, he was inducted into both school’s halls of fame.
A wonderful life
Stanley Sites was classically North End Catholic and during his days he and Pat raised those seven kids in that house on Melrose Street, he gathered so many friends with names like Goedde, McGraw, Zerante, Williams, O’Connor, Bourk, Stolly, Gorman and Mulcahy.
For the five daughters left behind during this holiday season, there will be some sadness but also memories of a life so very well lived. And, they will be assuaged by the the faith that their parents instilled.
For Marty, now the lone Sites in that same Melrose Street house that once housed nine or more, it may be her father’s zest for life despite so many tribulations she’ll remember most. For Molly, it may be his encouraging voice she heard in gyms where she once played during her school girl basketball times. For Betsy, it may be her father’s ever-the-kid sense of humor. For Susie, it may be the moment she realized a father could also be a best friend. And for the youngest daughter Mary, it just may be remembering her father’s preternatural ability to whistle, the one he used, once upon a Melrose time, to summon his children spread throughout the neighborhood home to dinner.
And, of course there will be thoughts from all of Stanley’s daughters of those summer vacations to a rented cottage at Grand Lake in St. Marys, one filled with as many as 14 children, because, of course, Stanley would usually allow his kids to bring friends. And in those ephemeral summer moments, all who wished to be caught when it came their turn to jump off the dock would find waiting arms to catch them.
In this Christmas season, I again watched Frank Capra’s signature cinema “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and I again marveled at the big heart of Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey. In many ways, maybe Lima’s version of George was Stanley, save one distinction.
While George longed to leave Bedford Falls searching for adventure, for Stanley Sites, he never saw his life unfolding anywhere else. No, for him, there were simply too many ways he could help right here in Lima… on Lima’s north side… on Melrose Street.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and author of two books. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.