Nobody lives forever although the majority of us may believe that's the case.
On Sept. 7, Keith Stoner, a Hermitage educator, coach and friend passed away at age 85. We loved and respected him deeply.
As I sit here, attempting to write this column, I wonder why it takes so long sometimes to express thoughts and gratitude to those we hold in such high esteem when they are living. I'm certain, however, that Keith knew our thoughts.
Stoner was a cornerstone in the foundation of Hermitage, a pillar in his community, a man of honesty and integrity, a man I've been very proud to have called "my friend" down through the years.
Swartzes support tribute
I was glancing through the paper the other day when I came across an editorial written by husband and wife, Don and Joann Swartz, of Hermitage, both former friends and students of Keith's. They believe that the Hermitage Middle School should be named and dedicated to the former superintendent of Hermitage schools.
I know of no better way of paying tribute to Keith. The school board should not waste any time in honoring their former comrade. The middle school was Keith's baby all the way. It's only appropriate that the school should bear his name.
A graduate of Slippery Rock State College, Stoner earned his master's degree in education at the University of Pittsburgh in 1952.
In 1946 he began teaching and coaching in the Hermitage school system. He was head basketball coach from 1946 to 1952 and never had a losing season. His 1950 team won the District 10 title but was defeated in the playoffs.
Superintendent in 1972
In 1952, he became assistant principal at Hickory High, and in 1961 became the first principal of Hickory Junior High. In 1972, he became superintendent when he replaced Ken Delahunty. Keith retired in 1975.
It was during my basketball career at Sharpsville High School that I first met Keith. We played the Hornets at Hickory and you could look out the gymnasium windows and see cows grazing in the field (where the Shenango Valley Mall is located now).
In addition to his other school activities, Keith was a football official for 12 years, and head of the PIAA District 10 Athletic Committee and a member of its Board of Control. He was also the first commissioner of the Mercer County Athletic Conference. In 1978, he was inducted into the Mercer County Hall of Fame.
Stoner loved sports, and he and his wife, Gloria, attended many functions including the state championship games in Hershey, Pa.
Didn't hunt deer
It had been the policy of the newspaper at which I worked to print the names of deer kills made by our local hunters.
The phone rang one day and it was Keith. "Where in the world did you ever get my name in the deer kills?" chuckled Keith. "I just wanted you to know that I've never been deer hunting in my life."
It must have been one of Keith's buddies who made the call.
Stoner was a kind and gentle man who touched the lives of thousands. And it's safe to say that everyone who knew him benefited from the associations. He dedicated his life to making Hickory a better place to live, and it was through his efforts that today's Hermitage School System is one of the best to be found anywhere in the state.
So like Don and Joann Swartz pointed out, it's time to do something nice for a gentleman who did so much for our community and its school system. Let's not put this one on the back-burner again.
My sincere sympathy to Gloria and the Stoner's son, Lin. It was my privilege to have known your husband and father.