A life lived fully, with adventure
Last week, Tonganoxie attorney Kent Weatherby stopped at The Mirror to tell us of a death of The Honorable Arthur J. Stanley Jr., Leavenworth, a retired federal judge. From Weatherby, we learned that Stanley's granddaughter, Laura Porter, lives in Tonganoxie.
From Porter, we learned that her grandfather's highly esteemed career got off to a rough but determined start.
The nearly centenarian, born in 1901 and died in 2001 just weeks short of marking his 100th birthday, showed a lifelong streak of determination. At the age of 10, he would be kicked out of Boy Scouts for smoking cigarettes, a few years later he would run away to join the army, and after his father brought him home, would run away again. At 16, he would change his name and flee to Canada to join the army there. Once again the father retrieved the son.
After that, Porter says, the father relented and allowed his son to join the United States Army.
Stanley served in the Seventh Cavalry from 1918 to 1919.
He rode with Blackjack Pershing along the Mexican border. He was stationed in Texas and pursued Poncho Villa, and he was in the second-to-the-last cavalry charge in the United States.
He loved the military, his granddaughter said.
"He was in just about every branch of the service," Porter said. "He was in the Air Force, the Army, the Navy," Porter said.
During the Boxer Rebellion in China, he was on the Yangtze River patrol. He later talked to his grandchildren about the beauty of the river.
"He was at D-Day plus two," Porter said, explaining he arrived on the beaches of Norman-dy two days after the invasion.
"He still had his map and it still had the water stains on it," Porter said.
Stanley also worked in intelligence.
"He told me that he'd sought targets for the allied bombers," Porter said. "He would look and figure out where there was probably a necessary place to bomb that contained weapons. He did pick out an ammo dump a pretty big one that the Germans had set up."
Later, Stanley worked as district attorney for Wyandotte County. He was there during the Tom Pendergast era. Called to investigate when a Pendergast bookkeeper committed suicide by jumping off a bridge, Stanley removed the documents from the victim's car and had himself locked up with the documents in a jail cell until federal agents could arrive.
And these aren't the things for which Stanley is generally remembered.
He became a lawyer in 1928. From 1928 to 1934 he practiced law with his father in Kansas City, Kan. In 1934 and 1936, Stanley was elected Wyandotte County prosecutor. In 1940 he was elected as a state senator, but the next year was called into active military duty.
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Stanley to serve as a federal judge in the District of Kansas, a seat he held until 1971, when he took senior status. In 1980, Stanley took full retirement, but continued with administrative work for the court until six years ago.
After Truman's presidency, Stanley and Truman became friends and the two occasionally met for lunch, his granddaughter said.
Despite his achievements and his impressive connections, to the end, he was humble, she added. Although Stanley was the recipient of the Bronze Star and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, he requested that the only title on his tombstone be that of sergeant.
"He said the sergeants were the ones who really held the Army together," Porter said. "And he had so much experience, but he said that was his favorite time when he was a sergeant."
Porter said she learned from her grandfather to hold her country in high esteem. And she says that from him, she most likely picked up a spirit of adventure. Chances are, this summer when she learns to fly an ultralight aircraft, her grandfather will be on her mind.
The life of Stanley a man who started out as a boy fighting authority and who ultimately became symbolic of authority can be termed nothing short of an inspiration.
Stanley's example can serve as a reminder that rewards are rich when each day life is lived as if it were an adventure, and not a routine.