One of my earliest memories is a summer night in the early fifties, down at the Band Shell at Lake Winona, after the band concert. My mother informed me that I and my cousin Patty Edstrom would be ring bearer and flower girl for Aunt Bev’s wedding out in Worthington, Minnesota. I was a precocious child and foresaw myself uncomfortably dressed on a day that would be difficult, complex, somehow humiliating – of the event, I remember only Patty telling me, scandalized, to walk slower as we made our way down the aisle.
This proved to be a small price to pay for bringing Uncle Roy (LeRoy Theophilus Daniel) Stark into the family. Roy was a man’s man, despite being a kind of “tweener,” midway in age between his adoring nephews and nieces and their parents. He was always the instigator of sporting contests – football, fishing, pool, you name it – that brought us kids into the adult world and the adults into ours. There was a magic in that which pervades all memories of Uncle Roy. I remember my own Dad seeming younger and happier on the occasions that included Roy and his wife, Dad’s kid sister Beverly.
Roy Stark was one of those people who has the gift of bringing positive energy, a brightness, to any occasion. There was never a gathering which he attended that was not enlivened by his presence. He never seemed particularly complicated nor cerebral, although very successful in a long business career. His unique gift was a rare zest for life that he could communicate to others, that would actually rub off on them. I believe that people could take that away from him and make it last for days.
Roy had been a U.S. Marine, and at some point we asked him how great a pile of our nation’s enemies he had slaughtered. He disappointed us with the assurance that he had never fired a shot in anger, nor incurred one, thank God. As we grew older, we learned that the man’s man was a gentle and decent one.
In everyone’s life there are some crowning ironies, and one of mine was that my Aunt Bev died young of cancer, as did Ray, the husband of Peg Poferl, mother of my high school girlfriend, Kate. Not long after, Roy and Peg were introduced by his nosy and conniving Edstrom nieces, married, and spent more years together than with either of their first spouses. Thus, I got to know Peg Poferl/Stark when I was a grown-up, and found her much better company as my aunt than when she was keeping a gimlet eye on the hours, whereabouts, and possible activities of myself and her daughter those years past. We were friendly veterans, opponents in a long-ago war which was hard-fought then, but of sweet memory now.
The years passed and in the spring of ‘08, Peg was buried in a windy cemetery up in the flat country near Pine City where she and Ray grew up and were married. Roy was too sick to attend, but Fran and I were able to stand in. Now he has passed on also. I hope, when I am gone, to be remembered with half the affection by half as many people.