Posted by: SJS | December 26, 2020

Role models for surviving 2020.

Red with his parents 1944
George Sr., George Jr., and Mary Stahley

My grandmother, Mary Young Stahley, survived the influenza pandemic of 1918. After enduring the loss of her mother that year in the pandemic, Mary–at age 13–stepped into the role of mother to care for her five younger siblings. With grit, savvy, and indomitable courage she raised William, Margaret, George, Catherine, and Joseph. Their admiration, love, and passionate loyalty to their oldest sister were powerfully evident to me before I reached the age of five. Mary Young Stahley was a fighter, a survivor, and an unapologetic defender of those she loved.

My father, George “Red” Stahley, was raised by this woman whose devotion to duty and concern for others were imprinted on his soul. When Pearl Harbor was attacked he was a junior in high school. Mary’s only son, her only child, the apple of her eye, opted for military service months before he revealed his decision to his parents. As America witnessed the ferocious sea battles with Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic and the brutal encounters with Imperial Japan in the Pacific, Red sought out the recruiting office of the US Navy. He was contrary, cocksure, and a relentless champion of the underdog.

Like his mother, Red knew instinctively that the way you show your love for others is by serving them. Even if it means putting your life on the line, you serve others. That’s all there is to it. You do your duty. You do not hesitate or equivocate. It is not complicated–you serve.

As I reflect on the lives of my grandmother and my father I realize how extraordinarily fortunate I am to have their example before me, to have their genes in my body, and to have citizenship in this country that they loved so dearly.

We will survive the ravages of this gruesome pandemic. We will survive the vile, mendacious despot manqué in the White House who pardons the murderers of children, ignores the unmerited sufferings of his fellow citizens, flouts the rule of law, and whose brute incompetence unleashed the voracious energy of COVID 19 upon our nation. We will also survive the seditious, sycophantic politicians who have enabled and empowered that same raging imbecile for four long, tortured years. May the reckoning these shameless sycophants face be as crude, merciless, and cruel as they themselves are.

We will survive 2020. My grandmother and my father survived far worse. Their example is a light to my path. The witness of their lives is a continual summons to me be about the work of service to other people, to our country, and to the values of decency, civility, and duty which characterized their lives.

Best wishes for a happy, peaceful and safe 2021.


  1. I agree, well said.

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