They call them Alpha people, which is just another way of saying those who seek perpetual adventure. Stanley “Stoney” Deck was from their clay, and embodied their spirit. It’s something not taught, but in the blood.
In his Golden youth, he trapped muskrat in the cove’s berth above the Holyoke dam, and after skinning and fleshing jobs stretched out with cased-in furs, his mother Rose boxed them up and mailed them off to Sears and Robuck for depression style money. His thumb carried him on one hell of a ride alright, clear across our land, landing the kid in a Conservation Corps camp along the sea coast, near Cottage Grove, Oregon. He won his first two fights, gliding the white canvas, men yelling crazy through the ropes of a smoke filled arena. By his own admission, never having a coach, his only real punch was a crushing right hand groomed out sometime long ago in the Eastern European block, but it was more than sufficient for his survival in the ring.
Always on the move, never sitting still, he fast talked his way on a freight junket ship working the Inside Passage, broke wake past Ketchikan, and steamed to one of the most desolate and forelorn places known to the general public—Dutch Harbor. The very next day, he told the ship’s captain he’d seen plenty for his lifetime, and caught the next sea going freight hauler out of dodge. That very ship on the way back to the lower-fourty-eight, pulled into Seldovia, Alaska on her port side and lashed down her beam to a pier head on a very special day—November 1st which is always All Saints Day, and Stoney Deck’s 21st birthday. Stanley was still in the Last Frontier when World War II broke out. He joined the Army, and was groomed out in the barracks of Haines, Alaska. The troops in that part of the world, bolstered the northwest corner of the United States, for a gunfight with the Japs that never ran the gauntlet.
He was a graduate of the New York Ranger School, a branch of Syracuse University, with majors of Forestry and Land Surveying. He kept in touch with many of his old classmates as pen pals.
He proposed to his wife, Helen Mieczkiewicz, during a break at her sewing class. They had two sons, Stephen and the late David Deck. He taught his boys the love of wild places, and the beauty of outdoor life. He made absolutely certain his oldest son Stephen not only knew all the forest trees by their leaf margins at a very early age, but could also name them in the deciduous state by bark patterns and furrow markings.
His three crowning jewels of his professional land surveying career was the perimeter survey of Bemis Heights, Blueberry Hill, and his own development, Stonewall Acres in Ashfield. This was a time frame before Theodolites, and Stanley loved dearly his brass Buff transit, and always dressed in full khakis with a spray of sharp pencils in his shirt pocket, in tribute to the codes of his profession.
One of his true adventure romps was his summer fishing trips to Missisquoi Bay on Lake Champlain, with his buddies Tony Scully and Moe Gordon. It was a time when men were happy with rental wooden boats of sound hulls, and driven by a sleek set of oars. They glided by day casting red and white Daredevils for Northern Pike, beat the water in the forenoon with fly rods for Yellow Perch, and slipped into the blackness of night for working Jitterbug plugs on the lake’s glass. They worried a lot more about procuring lard to keep the oar locks silent, the faint sounds of paddles lapping the surface, than sweating too much how many life jackets might be aboard. Tony Scully by all accounts was a big man, who played his deck of cards on both sides; he was a fantastic cook, and Tony sure liked to eat, and there was no finer combination than having him signed on as camp cook, because you knew the meals would be horns of plenty and served straight up with perfection. The boys favorite meal was hump-back Yellow Perch rolled in batter by Tony’s hands, and dressed out with home fries smothered with ketchup.
Stoney loved the Patriots. The only kind of round ball in his book was woman’s UConn hoops. He rooted for Michelle Wie. The man kept in touch with his friend Sr. Joan of Jericho, and he visited the chapel of the Holyoke Soldier’s Home twice a day, for coming clean with the Lord who he called the Chief.
He dodged many bullets. He brushed against the magic number of living 100 years. He was born on November 1st of 1918, and died in the Holyoke Soldier’s Home on January 29th of 2018. He was the last living member of his immediate family, who had survived his sister Stella, and his brothers Casimir, Adolph, Teddy, and his youngest brother Walter, who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge the day before Christmas of 1944, and is buried in Normandy at Flander’s Field.
He leaves his daughter-in-law, Crystal Deck, and grandchildren Lauren and Jared Deck of California. On Stoney’s side, his nieces are Cindy, Cheryl, Patty, Marcia, and Edwina aka Winkey. The nephews are Kazu, Tuffy, Tony, and Wally. Stoney had a wealth of great-children, but was closest and exceedingly proud of his great-niece Elizabeth Gaspari, who got the highest GPA of her class at Elms College with a 4.0 and was given her first choice of maternity nursing at Baystate Hospital. It’s one thing for the grape vine to talk about nursing grades, but really only those behind the hospital’s walls, scrub people who crammed over medical journals, truly know the power chords of that testimony.
Stoney loved the Holyoke Soldier’s Home, and thought the world of that facility. It was his home for almost nine years. He was constantly on the move, singing songs, playing drums, really into his Bingo and watching side shows. It would be virtually impossible and totally unfair to pick a staff favorite, because he had so much love and devotion inside the Home.
He was born on November 1st of 1918 and died inside the Holyoke Soldier’s Home on January 29th 0f 2018. His funeral is private at Barry J. Farrell Funeral Home, but all are welcome at Blessed Sacrament Church on Thursday February 1st at 10:00am following to the gravesite at Saint Jerome’s Cemetery.
The man who pushes the keys on this typewriter, could go another five pages with one eye closed and two fingers crossed, and if they didn’t whack out the paragraph blocks, could write an award-winning short story here, that would have put a smile on Papa’s face, who was my primary writing instructor in a man named Ernest Hemmingway. But because the world is always calling its dust, the spirits beckoning the souls with inclusioned destiny, the thistle down drifting toward the zenith of heaven, many others too are mourning in the habiliments of agony, and are also in the quest for ink room. Therefore, let’s spin the stiletto and cut its steel blade: We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We acknowledge through the tribulation of Faith running the backbone of all mankind, that Stoney has been bridged to the mirror’s other side. We are fully aware the Boss up there once walked on water, and that by a mere flick of the wrist exhumed a thousand fish on the banks; he snapped his fingers and turned water into wine. Therefore, we are certain the Stanley "Stoney" Deck is back out in the game, the oars chopping the still lake, and that there will be never any more needs for life preservers.
January 30, 2018