MY DAD: George William Stone turned 90 years old on April 17. He was was born and reared on a farm in Byars, Oklahoma. He was the sixth of eight children, five girls and three boys. In those days all the children, as soon as they were old enough, worked the farm. Most farm people at that time could not afford to hire help and there were no labor saving machines that farmers use today. They lived in a four room house with no running water. They carried their water from a nearby well.
My parents married in 1937 and moved to Oklahoma City. Following that move Dad worked at many different jobs to support his family, which eventually included four sons. These jobs included selling ice cream and delivering large blocks of ice for Capitol Hill Ice Cream Company and slaughtering cattle at the Butcher Brothers slaughter house. He also spent one summer in California driving a truck for a construction company. He was never afraid of hard work, a trait that served him well as he built his career.
Although Dad grew up in the Methodist Church he started attending a Southern Baptist Church when he moved to the City. Mom had been a Baptist so that is what they decided would be their church. Later he felt the call to the ministry. He was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister and pastored several churches in Oklahoma. He was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma, when I was born. During this time he returned to school, driving from the Oklahoma City area to Shawnee, Oklahoma, daily to attend Oklahoma Baptist University where he earned his college degree. After a while he started to experience problems with his throat, a problem that caused him to eventually leave the full time ministry. His last church, in the late 1940's, was University Heights Baptist Church in northwest Oklahoma City. (The picture to the left is how he looked in 1946 when I was born.)
My grandfather, his dad, had been involved with the Oklahoma Farmers Union, while Dad was growing up. At the time this was a major organization to support the American family farmer and was a state chapter of the National Farmers Union. In addition to representing the farmer with both state legislatures and with the U. S. Congress, they made insurance available, through the national company, for these farmers. After Dad found he could no longer preach full time he went to work for Oklahoma Farmers Union, first on a part time basis and then full time. He worked his way up from Assistant to the State Secretary to manager of the automobile insurance department and in 1956 he was elected President of the state organization, a job he held until 1980. Under his leadership the Oklahoma organization began issuing their own insurance policies and became one of the largest domestic insurance carriers in the state. During this time Oklahoma rose to the highest membership of all the state organizations with over 100,000 family members. In 1980 he elected as President of National Farmers Union, where he served until his retirement in 1984 at age 65. His work with Farmers Union required a great deal of travel over the years, both throughout the country and on a worldwide basis. He has been to all corners of the world and has met with many world leaders. He also knew and worked with most of the U. S. Presidents during those years. (Today, he still stays involved in the business of Oklahoma Farmers Union, which is now known as American Farmers & Ranchers, as he serves as the senior member of the Board of Directors.)
Following his career with Farmers Union he bought a farm in Stratford, Oklahoma, just a few miles from where he had grown up. He worked this farm as a cow/calf operation for the next ten years. In addition to his cattle operation he also raised sheep, hay, Bermuda grass and he had two large peach orchards. One of his best crops was Bermuda grass roots. He could pull the roots and bale them with a hay baler and sell them to builders and other farmers. With a couple hundred acres in Bermuda grass this crop only cost him his time, diesel for the tractor and a little baler wire. He also had a very large vegetable garden.
After farming for ten years, and at age 75, he decided it was time to slow down. He sold the farm and built a house in Purcell, Oklahoma. Although he greatly scaled down he still maintained a large garden at the new house. When he purchased lots to build his house he bought four lots. Normally there would have been four houses built on these lots. He used two of the lots for his house and had the rest in lawn and garden, which he maintained himself. The folks lived there for eleven years. At that time my mother's health was diminishing and Dad had some heart problems. They sold their house and moved to an assisted living center within the same neighborhood, where they continue to live. Still with the farmer in his blood he maintains a garden in a space behind the center. The vegetables he grows are used in the center's kitchen for the benefit of the residents. Dad was recognized by the Governor of the State of Oklahoma when he was initiated into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2000.
Recently my Dad has written a book about his life. He did all the writing in long hand on a yellow legal pad. I was honored when he asked me to type, edit and do the layout of this book. It is a fantastic story of a very unique life. Through the years while Dad was traveling for work the job of taking care of the family fell to my mother. Now my mom's health is not as good and she suffers from dementia. Dad has now become the caregiver and does a fantastic job of caring for Mom. It is a joy to watch how gentle and patient he is with her.
From the time that I was a small child to this day my dad has always been my hero. He is living proof of what a person with the drive, ability and is who willing to work hard can do in this world. He was also my mentor. When I was self employed in the insurance business he is the person I turned to for advise and counsel. Later, when I was in a management position in state government, when I found myself dealing with personnel issues I often stopped and asked myself "what would Pop do in this situation". I think that I have one of the best father's that God ever made and I feel very fortunate to have been his son.