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Richard Stampfler, 93, of Groveland, passed peacefully surrounded by his loving family at the Edith Nourse Rogers VA Hospital in Bedford, MA on Tuesday, October 10, 2023.
Richard “Dick” Duane Stampfler was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 16, 1930 to Joseph Perl Stampfler and Eleanor Louise (Love) Stampfler of Bellevue, Michigan. The eldest of seven children, Dick spent his early childhood on the “cement farm” beside the historic Dyer Kiln ruins in Bellevue before moving with his family to their dairy farm in the nearby town of Delton in 1942. When he was ready for kindergarten, the teacher – his aunt Margaret – declared him too smart for kindergarten and immediately promoted him to first grade.
Dick was a curious, intelligent, hard-working, and mechanically talented young man. He was the perfect guy to have on a farm, especially during the Depression years. He could fix anything with an engine or moving parts – tractors, trucks, cars, dairy machinery, hay elevators – if you could break it, he could repair it. Like all farm kids, he was required to get up at dawn to milk the cows and do chores before going to school, and then after school there was more milking and more chores. In those days, kids didn’t get paid to do chores, so he and his younger brother Thad trapped muskrats in the School Pond abutting their fields and sold the pelts to their grandpa Fred to make money. Dick played basketball and ran track at Delton Kellogg High School and loved to tell the story of how he ran the mile and the half-mile back-to-back one day when one of his teammates was sick. “It wrung me out!” he said. He graduated from Delton Kellogg in 1948, in a class of thirty students, and attended the all-school reunion almost every year until 2019.
After high school, Dick worked at Precision Castings Company in Kalamazoo, which manufactured parts for automobiles, and then Eaton Manufacturing, where he made parts for B29 airplanes. He lived at home, continued to farm, and bought cows of his own so he could afford his car habit – he loved the stylish cars of the late 40’s and early 50’s, and he was always buying and selling the latest models. He was a thrill-seeker and loved to outrace the local police in his fancy wheels – but occasionally they caught up with him, and in those days it was published in the local newspaper, which didn’t thrill his mother very much.
In April of 1953, he enlisted in the Air Force. After ten weeks of basic training at Lackland AFB in Texas, he went to Chanute AFB in Illinois, where he earned certifications in heating, ventilation, and pressurization instrumentation systems. Then he was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton OH, where he was highly regarded as a top technician, working in the Aircraft Test Labs in Building #50 on Wright Field. His first plane ride ever was on a B-29 when he asked the pilots “what does a guy need to do to get a ride in one of those?” They obliged, told him to grab a parachute, and took him up, even buzzing his parents’ dairy farm 260 miles away. After three years at Wright-Patterson, he was transferred to Hanscom AFB in Bedford, MA., where he eventually met Saundra Clifford, the love of his life, on a blind date set up by a friend. They married in Newton, Massachusetts on May 17, 1957, one month after his discharge from the Air Force and nine months after their first date. He took a job with Northeast Airlines (which later merged with Delta Airlines) on June 3, 1957, and worked there until his retirement in 1985.
Early in their marriage, Dick and Sandy lived in Newton, MA and Hialeah, FL before settling in Groveland, Massachusetts. They had four children together – Patricia, Donald, Janice, and Diane. They worked hard, but they loved to travel, and took their kids all over the country to see many of the National Parks and special places like Disneyland, the California coast, and the Rocky Mountains. Of course, there were many visits to the family farm in Delton, which kept his Massachusetts family close to his Michigan family. Dick continued his mechanical hobbies throughout his life, obtaining his private pilot’s license, buying and repairing his own airplanes, cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, and motorhomes. He would delight his kids by buzzing the house with planes he flew out of Lawrence Airport, Plum Island, or small air strips at Dutton’s in Newton, NH, or Slavitt’s in Haverhill. He taught his kids to work hard and to play hard, and he took us with him on all his adventures. He flew his young family to Michigan in his Cessna, landed on a grass strip, and dared all his relatives to take a joyride over the fields with him.
Perhaps the most exciting chapter of his life began with his retirement in 1985. He and Sandy were young, and they embarked on a 37-year retirement adventure that included converting buses into motorhomes, traveling all over the southwest US, Canada, and Mexico, flying their Cessna 337 and 172 airplanes across the country, panning for gold, fishing on the Baja, making friends, and seeing the world. They enjoyed their freedom and had more adventures in any given year than most people have in a lifetime. They also came home to have fun with their kids and grandkids – “Grahmpy” rode the extreme rollercoasters well into his 70’s, joined us on several whitewater rafting trips starting at age 72 (and kept going until he was 78!), met us in Florida or the Isle of Palms for multi-generation vacations, took his grandkids up in his airplanes in Nevada, and brought us on numerous road trips in his Greyhound MC-6 bus. He never forgot his roots and traveled to Michigan to visit family and to attend Love and Stampfler reunions into his late 80s.
Eventually age caught up with Dad, so he and Sandy and their beloved dog, Dusty, moved back to Groveland in 2018 to be near their children. He had some health issues and received top-notch medical care from the excellent doctors at the Bedford VA, adjacent to the base he served at in the 1950’s. Sandy gave Dick the best loving care at home for as long as she could, and his final weeks were spent at the David James Hospice Unit at the Bedford VA Hospital, where the staff took wonderful care of him and the whole family, and gave him the gift of a peaceful and comfortable passing.
Dick leaves his devoted wife of 66 years, Saundra Stampfler, of Groveland; son Donald (Caroline) Stampfler of Georgetown; daughter Janice (Bob) Nelson of Merrimac; daughter Diane (William) Darke of Groveland; Seven grandchildren - Erin (Jon) Wlodyka of Haverhill; Stephanie (Brian) Sweet of Andover; Chloe (Isaac) Darke of Upperville, VA; Tyne (Andrew) Darke of Longmont, CO; Kai Darke of Portland OR; Madelyn Nelson and Jennifer Nelson of Merrimac MA; six great-grandchildren – Ethan, Trevor, and Brodie Wlodyka of Haverhill MA, and Cashman, Vivienne, and Emery Sweet of Andover MA; brothers Michael (Luann) Stampfler of Portage MI and Rodney Stampfler of Madison FL; sister-in-law Geraldine Stampfler of Hastings MI; his aunt Phyllis (Don) Jones of North Hollywood CA; and many loving nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, his daughter Patricia, his brothers Thaddeus and Philip, and sisters Maryln Rees and Jean Pierce.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 18, at 11:00am at the Newton Cemetery Chapel, 791 Walnut St, Newton MA.
In lieu of flowers, please donate in Dick’s memory to the David James Hospice Unit of the Bedford VA Hospital, or to your favorite animal charity.
To view a livestream of the service log on to http://harborview.live