Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
June 2021 - Volume 21, No. 6
Andrew Stimson, 1941 - 2021
He was my best college roommate for those first two years of college dorm life at Iowa State Teachers College (“ISTC” - now the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls). That was before I transferred to the University of Iowa, and basically lost touch with him.
Before that we were in High School together, in Independence (Iowa). In the band, he played trombone, I played cornet. I believe he was in MYF (the Methodist Youth Fellowship) with me, but I’m not sure. He came from a farm family from outside of town- good people. I was a townie - good people. Were we close then? Not really. But there was always a quiet respect between us. We had similar temperaments - quiet, non-intrusive, and each sporting a subtle sense of humor. Also neither of us doing well with women.
It was a pleasant surprise at ISTC to be made roommates. Stadium Hall comprised of five men per room, and (yes) was under the (old) Stadium. It was the early 60’s version of ‘co-ed’, in that for Saturday football games, we lost half of our toilets and showers, down under there, to girls (especially I recall to visiting team cheer leaders).
Our other three roommates were not great fellows to be around, nonetheless to room with. Nor could they be trusted with anything of value. I soon made a lockbox out of a metal cardfile, which I screwed into one of my dresser drawers. Andy and I both took refuge across campus at the Wesley Foundation (Methodist Student Center) for study and social purposes.
For our second year, we had more freedom in roommate choices, so he and I chose to room together at a men’s residence hall, the name of which no longer exists on the official (Google) campus map - nor in my memory. There were three men to a room, and our ‘third’ was himself a quiet and pleasant fellow. The horrors of Stadium Hall were blessedly behind us.
It was in this second college year when Andy and I were closest, and our dry sense of humor more fully emerged. My fondest memory was one evening in our dorm room. He was reading a dictionary in a way that had all three of us laughing uproariously. (We hadn’t been drinking, and the college drug scene was still a decade away.) He came upon an entry for the word “pig” and one definition was “a hog of any kind.” (Or maybe it was the other way around.) Only Andy could make that funny, but all three of us were laughing till it hurt. He continued to find other humorous definitions, but that’s the one I remember.
After that year I left Cedar Falls for Iowa City, pursuing a different path than teaching, and lost touch with Andy. But the memory of that gentle soul has remained with me. I heard that he married - and though I never met his wife, I hoped she was a good woman, a partner to a good (though possibly difficult as a husband) man. I recall no knowledge of children.
Some years later I visited him for an afternoon, at his home in or near Waukegan, Illinois, just north of Chicago - where he had become a life-long librarian at the Waukegan Public Library. It was a delightful visit for both of us.
I think that was near the time of his father’s untimely death. It was winter, and Mr. Stimson was walking along the main street in Independence. It had been snowing heavily, and the canvas awning in front of the Davis Paint Store collapsed from the weight of it just as Mr Stimson walked underneath - crushing him.
Andy was the consummate librarian - friendly, his head full of stuff, from which he lived a good life. And I recall his house, almost over-filled with the quiet life of houseplants.
I never saw him again. He never attended our every-five-year year high school reunion in Independence (Iowa). Though classmates (there were only 54 of us) would bring occasional word of him - and that in recent years he was battling pancreatic cancer. Then last September I heard from a mutual classmate he had discontinued treatment and entered hospice.
Just a couple days ago I got word he had died peacefully May 23 (now 9 days ago) - accompanied by a pleasant obituary photo from which it is easy for me to recognize him.
They don’t make folks like him very often in this life.
It would be easy to say something like “I wish I had kept in greater touch with him.” And that is true. But as I am missing him in these reflections and memories, I also am at peace that I hadn’t kept in touch with him. Sometimes the essence of mental health is the ability to let things be as they are.
That said, it has been pleasant to take this walk down memory lane in honor of my old friend. And even to share it with you my readers.
And since he has been weathering a difficult illness, to be able to release him from this life.Of course I will miss him from being there just across Lake Michigan.
Go gently now my good Brother into that Good Night. And I hope as you passed over, there was someone to massage your feet, and to open a window from your room for the passage of your beautiful soul.
And for the rest of us - may we continue to
Thanks for the remembrance
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