Thursday, December 18, 2014

Benjamin B. Stone of Dimock

Ben Stone 1

 

 

 

 

Benjamin B. Stone last speaking

at the dedication of the Susquehanna County Recycling Center

that he worked so diligently to establish:  April, 1999

 

 

 

 

Stone2

 

Dedication of the

Benjamin Stone

Look-out Tower

at the Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Preserve

June 3rd, 2006

 

 

 

 

 Comments in italics written by his wife, Joyce.

Benjamin Stone died in a tragic accident while kayaking the Stony Creek at the Ben’s Creek Kayaking Festival in southwestern PA on April 10, 1999. He was only 53 years old and left behind his wife Joyce of 29 years, and three daughters – Lila then – 25, Violet 20, and Jill – 18. He also left behind an incredible number of accomplishments that protected the environment and promoted education, music and health benefits in Susquehanna County and beyond. Ben’s life is deserving of a book to be fully told and appreciated; below are a few excerpts from others that give a window into this beloved man.

 

BEN STONE REMEMBERED
1946 - 1999
THE FOREST CITY NEWS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21, 1999
Commentary by Paul A. Ferraro

Noted Susquehanna County environmentalist and folklorist, Ben Stone, died last week when his kayak capsized in Stonycreek River in Somerset County. Ben's passing was not only a great loss to his family-and friends, but to Susquehanna County.
My wife, Mary, and I first met Ben Stone in the late 1970's when we were doing the regional folk music circuit. At that time, Ben was active in promoting folk music in the region. He started the Montrose Folk Music Society and the Old Mill Village Folk Musicians Contest. Ben was a first rate craftsman making mountain and hammer dulcimers that were sold throughout the nation. Mary and I visited Ben's home in Dimock to see his dulcimers.
Through my work as a free lance reporter and environmentalist, I worked with Ben Stone on a wide range of environmental issues over these many years. Ben worked on some of the toughest, most grinding environmental issues anyone could ever encounter and through it all, Ben Stone always maintained his noted kind and gentle demeanor. Often during environmental battles when faced with almost insurmountable odds, when everyone was ready to throw up their hands, get in their cars and drive off, Ben Stone stayed and used his steady rational course to try and work things out.
Always the peace maker, Ben Stone was a true believer in doing what was good and right for man and environment. He was a man of principle and substance and character. Always caring, always giving. Whether it was serving as president of the regional environmental group RESCUE, president of the Elk Lake PTA, Resident Naturalist at the Woodbourne Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary, fighting against the citing of landfills and trash incinerators in the county, organizing a recycling program in his hometown and the Recycling Center for Susquehanna County, Ben Stone was always the consummate volunteer who you could trust and count on. Driven by a need to make the world a better place for his three daughters, Ben's accomplishments in promoting a better environment in Susquehanna County are immeasurable and his work in promoting folk music will travel long past his time.
We all loved Ben Stone. He will be sorely missed.

 

For the Memorial Service held outdoors at his home in Dimock, Ben’s friends located one of his many wood- burning stoves that he had built and set it up on the front lawn. A warm fire was started in the stove and puffs of smoke soon rose to the sky.

Next to the stove were two wooden signs with the hand-painted words, “SEND A MESSAGE TO BEN” and “BEN, YOU LEFT WITHOUT SAYING GOOD-BY. I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU…….” Paper and pencils were left on a near-by table. Friends wrote their messages, opened the door to Ben’s stove, and sent their messages on into the flames.

BEN, YOU LEFT WITHOUT SAYING GOOD-BY
R.E.S.C.U.E. Newsletter, April, 1999
By Dorothy B. McPherson, Editor

Ben, you left without saying goodbye. It wasn't really a funeral. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. It was called a Memorial Service. Yet it wasn't a service, either -- not in the traditional sense of the word. But a memorial it surely was. The weather probably kept some folks from attending. Nonetheless, some two hundred people gathered at the home of Ben's wife and daughters on April 17th, under the cover of a huge tent, despite the rain, the mud, the cold, and the damp.
Benjamin B. Stone. Just "Ben" to most of his friends, but always "Benjamin" to Joyce, with whom he'd shared the last twenty-five years or so. Who was he, this man whose death brought hundreds of people to an outdoor memorial service in such inclement weather?
Many of his family, and Joyce's family, got up and told us of their thoughts, their loss, or their remembrances. A dozen or so of his friends also spoke of their experiences with Ben. Some spoke of his human qualities, his ethics, his morals. Others spoke of his talents, his craftsmanship, his leadership. We laughed together at the tales of some of Ben's foibles, and we wept together as we listened to his three beautiful daughters tell us of their love and their loss. And we marveled at Joyce's strength as she rose and spoke to us about her best friend, their marriage, and their family.
All of these people spoke about Ben. But the best picture of Ben, and who he was, came simply from looking at those two hundred some-odd friends who had come to say goodbye. Some had known Ben through his craftsmanship. He built dozens of beautiful dulcimers which are now in homes throughout the country. He built the home that Joyce and daughters now occupy without him. He built the wood-burning stove that warms them . . . along with some 400 other stoves, most of which are still undoubtedly in use throughout Susquehanna County. (Ironically, the EPA regulations which came into being at that time forced Ben to stop making those stoves. Although they would have passed with flying colors, he couldn't afford the $17,000 it would cost to test each one, for they were all custom-made.)
Some people knew Ben for his love of folk music. Because of that love, he started the Montrose Folk Music Society, arranging monthly concerts for five years straight. He also originated the Folk Musicians Contest at Old Mill Village in New Milford and organized each annual event for 22 years.
Some will remember him as an educator. Indeed, Ben had taught high-school science for several years in N.H. He knew the value of education and spent a dozen years or more attending his local school board meetings and fighting all the way for what was right for both the students and the teachers.
Yet others will recall Ben's union involvement, having fought for many years with his union for improved medical benefits.
And of course, some will remember Ben as an environmentalist. Ben loved this Earth and all things Natural. He not only enjoyed hiking, camping, boating, and all the other outdoorsy things that we of that ilk enjoy, but he served on the Board of the Nature Conservancy's Woodbourne Preserve for many, many years. . . not only attending and actively participating in each meeting, but physically working on each and every project that developed.
Ben was solely responsible for developing the recycling program in Dimock Township and his persevering efforts led to the establishment of the Susquehanna County Recycling Center. And, of course, Ben agreed to take on the duties of President of R.E.S.C.U.E. for a term of two years. That was in May of 1994, and he remained our President until his death on April 10th.
And so there were people at Ben Stone's memorial from all walks of life: old and young, wealthy and poor, handsome and plain, up-tight and laid-back, boisterous and shy. In fact, at some point, each person in attendance was struck by the diversity of that large group, and knew at that moment that Ben had been a very special man, indeed.
Ben Stone, at age 53, left us all too soon. But this Earth is one helluva better place for his having passed through. We all have some mighty big shoes to fill. Goodbye, Ben.

 

Ben served for many years until his death as the Secretary for the Laborers Local #7 Union Board in Binghamton. He first joined the Union at age 18 when he began working for a private road construction company to pay for his expenses at Cornell University, where he graduated in 1970. His amazing engineering eye and craftsmanship for building 125 dulcimers, 400 custom-built wood stoves, his home, many boats, etc. was initially used for implementing the plans for constructing I-81!


THANK YOU, BEN
April, 1999
By Roberta Vana, Board Member of Laborers Local # 7, Binghamton, NY

I met Ben formally a few months prior to our gaining office at the Binghamton Local 7. Being a woman in a traditionally male occupation I am always aware of that certain subtle undercurrent of resentment. How refreshing then, to meet and serve with a gentleman who held no such resentment. Here was a man of intelligence and reason. And something even more rare in today's society- someone not in it just for himself. His efforts on behalf of the Union's members were tireless and truly monumental. As a result, many of our present and future members will enjoy a retirement far more secure and comfortable than would have been the case had it not been for his dedication. The National Pension Fund is now in place and funded, with all the contractors having signed. Thank you, Ben.
On a more personal note, I always enjoyed talking with him about the natural world. The new barn at Salt Springs, bald eagle sightings on the Susquehanna River. I will heartily miss his distinctive voice and manner of speech, the way his eyes crinkled and sparkled when he laughed. He was a wonderfully diverse, capable and talented man who had an accepting tolerance of others despite their ability or opinion. And, as was said with highest compliment and regard-he was decent....
It can be difficult to measure a man's worth, but a single glance around your gathering confirmed that Ben was a very wealthy man. I feel quite fortunate to have known this unique individual and am grateful for his example. May we all carry on half as well, and the world will surely become a better place.

 

With the transfer of the R.E.S.C.U.E. Scholarship Fund, established in 1999, into the competent hands of the Community Foundation of The Endless Mountains, Ben would surely feel honored and pleased to know that his life will help to prepare graduating seniors to carry on protecting this earth.

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