Posted by: SJS | March 7, 2011

Roots (2)

Growing up in Philadelphia, we were fortunate to have our grandparents, on both sides, as a part of our life.  On our father’s side, the five of us were “the whole show,” and Nana and Pop Stahley were a huge presence in family life.  On our mother’s side, Nana and Pop Pop O’Neill were loving grandparents but there were over 35 grandchildren to keep track of.  Our mother, Rita (O’Neill) Stahley was one of eight children.  So we Stahley kids were part of a much larger cast when we joined that side of the family for holidays and major family events.  What we lost in terms of grandparent attention was more than balanced by the thrill of collaborating with our O’Neill cousins in all kinds of fun (and mischief as well).   

Among the major benefits of the Stahley side, there was the opportunity to learn about our father from the perspective of his parents.  Pop was a devoted photographer who enjoyed nothing more than taking pictures of the family.  He also became quite good at making home movies.  His photographic legacy, preserved so diligently by our sister Joan, is a gift beyond measure.  When Red came home from the war, it was Pop who got the photos developed and then inserted them with loving attention into several albums. 

Nana would talk about Red’s childhood, his days at school, and what it was like when he was in the Navy.  To have a son who traveled across North Africa in a troop train, served on PT bases in the Mediterranean, and then saw action in the South Pacific, was a source of enormous pride for her.  And worry, too.  She loved Red’s friends from school and, later, his friends in the Navy.  Welcoming his buddies like Tom Saffles to the Stahley home was a thrill for her.  Nana was always at her best when she was serving a big meal to a big crowd of people–and making sure that everybody had more than enough.  She was a genius at hospitality.

Few photographs capture their personalities better than this one, taken perhaps in the early 1930s. 

George & Mary Stahley

George & Mary Stahley in the early 1930s

 Pop’s gentle good humor shines through his face.  Nana’s flair for the dramatic, combined with an unshakable confidence, radiates from head to toe.  “So just what do you think about this?” she seems to be saying.  

They were both strong people although in vastly different ways.  Pop’s attention to detail, deliberate and precise, conveyed his love and devotion.  Nana’s enjoyment in the swirl of human interaction–and her ability to guide that swirl through force of personality–was always in evidence.  Nana had few opinions that weren’t shared openly.  They were quite a team.  And they gave their son an abundance of attributes and traits that served him well during his days as a sailor on the PT boats of WWII.


  1. Steve, I love the photos you’ve posted of your grandparents. Thank you Joan, for being such a good archivist of the family photos. Since Pop was almost always behind the camera, it is rare to see a picture of him.

  2. Lis,

    I fully concur about Joan’s pivotal role in preserving the family legacy. She has taken excellent care of hundreds of photos that we can now share with the world. The photos of Pop are so precious because there are so few of them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: