A Memorial Tribute to Dick Stone

By Larry Weigel

Dick Stone, a native of Winfield, Ks, and team captain, of Kansas State’s 1956 Big 7 championship basketball team died from injuries resulting from a tragic auto accident-while seated in a parked car in Panama City Beach Florida on March 21, 2013.  Dick’s memorial service was held Friday April 5th at the Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Ks.  The mood was upbeat among the standing room overflow crowd.  People were visiting while the pianist played loud and joyous renditions of “Take Me Out to Stone-Tribute table-4-5-13the Ball” game and the “Kansas State Fight Song” prior to the start of the service.

The crowd stopped talking as family members were seated.  The service began with the sound of a young choir boy singing a high pitched beautiful ballad.  At first I thought it was a soloist from the Vienna boys choir, but later learned it was a tape recording from years ago- sung by Dick’s younger brother John when he was age 12.

Dick’s daughter Nancy gave a family tribute and shared some of her personal experiences about her dad.

All three clergy members exchanged stories about Dick’s lifelong involvement in church leadership roles as both a deacon and an elder.  He implemented the “curbside service program” and created a group of parking lot attendant volunteers- to greet members of the congregation who needed assistance getting into the church for Sunday services.  Dick came up with the idea that in order to be noticed, the greeters would wear funny hats.

“Dick was the richest man in Johnson County,” said the first speaker. “You see, he invested in people.”  He talked about Dick’s compassion for others, his hearty laugh; his love for popcorn, eating in general, how he played “Monster Man” with his grandkids, made up rules to games- then changed the rules if he was losing.

“Dick always carried a cross in his pocket to remind him of his Christian faith,” said Rev. Woody Brown.  Then he explained why we were about to sing one of Dick’s favorite Christmas carols right after Easter.

Angels We Have Heard on High-visualDick loved to sing- “Angel’s We Have Heard on High”, because he could belt out the chorus; Glor-o-o-o-o or-o-o-o-o or-o-o-o-o oria…in-ex-cel-sis-De-o.  Dick’s wife Katie- sang faithfully in the choir, but the minister said “Dick was never asked to join.”

I sang very loud on the Gloria part in honor of Dick and will smile in reverence to him whenever I hear it played at Christmas time.  I’m sure many others who were there will do the same, because who could forget Dick’s “April- Christmas” farewell song?  By the end of the service, it was obvious that Dick was a person of faith and loved life serving others.

The family greeted long lines of well wishers in an adjacent room afterwards for more than 90 minutes.  Now comes the hard part for Katie and the family.  How do you get over losing a guy like Dick who knew no stranger and loved people? You don’t.  He had a regular following at Costco’s where he became a greeter and offered food samples to hundreds of his regulars.  He will be remembered as a brother-brother in law- husband- father- father in law- grandfather- uncle- friend- teammate, and even a friend to strangers he may have only met once at Costco or on the beach in Florida.

John & Dick young boys

Dick was born Sept 29th 1934 in Winfield Ks.  His dad Ervin worked as a business manager at the local Creamery and his mom Thelma worked in a grocery store. Later the family started a laundry business.  Dick became a Winfield high school star athlete in basketball and baseball and accepted a scholarship offer to attend Kansas State University. He played on Tex Winter’s 1954 team-Winter’s first year as head coach at Kansas State.  Dick played a key role in a win over Kansas in 1956 at Allen Field house during Phog Allen’s last game as KU coach.

John and his wife Jan were in the car with Dick on March 21st, when the accident occurred and escaped life threatening injuries-but were unable to travel from their home in San Antonio, Tx- to attend Dick’s service. Jan had surgery recently and is recovering.  I told John his beautiful voice set the stage for the service with the sound of a “Vienna Boy’s” choir rendition of “Bless this House.”  (photo of Dick and brother John ages 14 and 11) courtesy of John Stone

“I tried out once for the Vienna boys choir at about age 12,” said John.  “Even though I took private voice lessons for six years from age 10 to 16, and only one year of piano lessons at age 10, I didn’t have enough musical training by age 12 for them to accept me in the choir.

“I won a regional voice contest singing “When Irish Eyes are smiling” when I was age 15, and then made it to the state finals in Kansas City,” said John.  “I finished runner-up to a boy from Salina who went on to represent Kansas and won the 1949 Fox Theater national competition in Los Angeles.  Years later during the 1970’s- John was playing golf in California with recording artist Johnny Mathis.  During their round of golf- John learned that Mathis was the California state winner in the same 1949 national voice contest, but also lost to the kid from Salina.  I said, “You mean (THE- Johnny Mathis) couldn’t even beat the boy from Salina?

Jan & John Stone

John spent his first year at Southwestern College in Winfield- then enrolled at Kansas State.  He served as the basketball team manager on the 1958 final four team, and the 1959 team who posted Kansas State’s best record ever at 25-2.  He was three years younger than his brother Dick but they bonded at a very young age. “We were very very close”, said John. “I couldn’t have asked for a better brother.” Following graduation, John kept in close touch with Dick.

“I was living in Phoenix during the early 1960’s, with a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brother, Pat Roberts, “said John.  “I called Dick and told him I was marrying a girl named Jan from Pittsburg, Pa, and didn’t expect him to make the wedding.”  “But- he came and brought my mom and dad on the long train ride to Pittsburg from Winfield,-a trip which they couldn’t afford,” said John.  “He was always there for me-and that’s just the kind of guy he was.”  (photo of Jan and John-courtesy of John Stone)

He was a beautiful person”, John said.  “But- he beat me in about every sport we played.”  The one time John thought he might have a chance beating his brother in an athletic event took place in Tulsa Oklahoma at a golf tournament. Dick and John agreed to play together.  “Dick signed in and listed his handicap as a 32,”John said.  John told Dick, “You sandbagger- John & tall brother Dick-photoI can’t beat a 32 handicap.” Yep, you guessed it; Dick won the tournament and received the winner’s trophy.

(photo of John, age 14, Dick, age 17) courtesy of John Stone.

Dick’s son in law Jamie Fain, who played on the Iowa State golf team added to the Tulsa story. “Dick was always looking for a secret weapon for the golf course,” said Fain.  “He had all kinds of putters, chippers, escape clubs and they were all in his bag.”  “After the Tulsa tournament, someone noticed that Dick’s bag looked awfully big and full and asked for a club count (legal limit is of course 14) and Dick probably had 20 clubs in his bag,” said Fain.  “Dick quickly threw his clubs in the car.  He and his Kansas City friends drove off slowly while Dick waved goodbye and said, ‘ see you next year’.”  “It was a funny and memorable experience,” said Fain. (Golf photo-Dick’s victory lap in Tulsa with legal club limit)

Dick not only changed the rules with grandkid games, he created a tag team arrangement with his brother John during adult card games.  “This made our wives terribly upset because they knew we weren’t’ playing by the rules,” said John.

Dick’s wife Katie was not in the car when the accident happened.  She stopped to mail some birthday cards and was talking to a friend when she heard a loud crash.  Had she been about two feet closer to the road, the speeding out of control driver would have struck both she and her friend.

“Dick and his brother John had a nice walk on the beach that morning,” said Katie.  “Dick ate at this favorite shrimp restaurant the night before and the Lord knew it was time to take him home-but it was just not on my schedule.”  “I’m so glad I did not see it happen-it was a horrible scene,” said Katie.

Wonderful memories are our best consolation after losing a loved one and Katie shared some of her memories when I asked- how did you meet Dick?  “I was living in Kansas City on the plaza with a roommate and it was singles haven back in July of 1960,” said Katie.

“One of Dick’s fraternity brothers Bill Laude told us he had two roommates he wanted us to meet.”  “Later on Dick called and asked me for a date and I didn’t know which one of Bill’s roommates would show up at the door, and it was Dick Stone,” Katie said.

Katie was working as an OBGYN nurse at the Kansas University medical center in the maternity ward and later learned from the senior medical students that she was dating a great basketball player.  “That was just like Dick,” said Katie.  “He never talked much about his basketball, and in fact I didn’t even know he was captain of the team during his senior year at Stone- photo KSU with tieKansas State until I read it in the paper the day after the accident.”

(Photo of Dick from K-State days- courtesy of K-State’s Sports Information dept.)

Kansas State Flag photoKatie and Dick were married one year later during July of 1961. Dick and Katie had a collaborative and caring relationship.  It was based on mutual support and a deep love for each other.  “Dick always opened the car door for me even after we’d been married for years,” said Katie.  Dick’s courtesies carried over to members of Katie’s own family.  Katie recalled that her brother Reg who is vis ually impaired once said, “Dick always helped me feel safe.”

Dick’s career started at Hallmark Cards while he and Katie dated, then he worked for Travelers Insurance for a brief time and spent the remainder of his working life with Capital Federal Savings in Kansas City.  He retired from Capital Federal in 1996 and friends gave him a Kansas State flag as a retirement gift. “But, he was a sweetie to give me my KU flag (and it was larger than his flag),” said Katie.

Kansas University Flag photoI asked Katie, “How did you handle the KU-K-State rivalry in your marriage.”  “Now that we each had our own flag, we had an agreement - whichever team won- the winning school’s flag would fly in the top position on our flag pole,” said Katie.  “My flag flew on top during basketball season, and Dick’s flag flew there mostly during the football season.”

Dick shared this note in Tex Winter’s Tribute book published in 2010.  “After graduation, I went to the Air Force, and then later met Katie the girl of my dreams,” wrote Dick.  “My brother John was a basketball team manager for the “Wildcats”, so I told him to tell Tex I was getting married, but she happened to be a “Jayhawk”.  Tex replied, “Is she ok?”  “I always thought that was carrying the rivalry a little too far,” wrote Dick.  Katie said, “We always joked with Tex about that statement.”  “We would have celebrated our 52nd anniversary this July.”

As Dick pursued his career Katie quit working as a nurse, and became a full time mom to help raise their three children Susan, Nancy and Doug.

 Braun Family :( Eric, Jacob, Susan, Steve, Emery, Isaac- courtesy of Susan Braun)

Their children include: Eric, 22, a senior at Kansas State, Isaac, 19, a freshman at Kansas State, both members of Beta Theta Pi just like their granddad Dick.  Emery is a freshman in high school, and Jacob age 13, a 7th grader.

“My dad was a compassionate man who took a genuine interest in others,” said Susan.  “I was not involved in sports like my siblings but no matter what I did I always knew he was in my corner rooting for me.”  “I still laugh when I remember him helping me practice my marching routine on the driveway when I was trying out for the drill team in middle school.” said Susan.

“Dad was always there for my kids- baseball, tennis, basketball or choir- he was in the stands loving every minute of it.”  “My dad even attended sporting events for my friends - just to watch and cheer their kids on,” Susan said.  “ I treasure that my dad gave me such a wonderful example of how to love, support and encourage people no matter who they are- but he left some pretty big shoes to fill.”

Steve Braun got to know his in-laws Dick and Katie very well when he and his family (Susan, Eric age 4, and Isaac age 1,)- lived with them for eight months while their new home was being built after returning to Overland Park, following a three year job related stay in Switzerland.  “It was during this time that Dick would always stop what he was doing to play with his grandchildren anytime they asked,” said Braun.  “He taught me that you only have so many years where you are your kid’s friends and you should never be too busy not to spend quality time with them.”  “He also told me that one day you’ll no longer be their best friend, and that’s the time you start embarrassing them,” said Braun.

Fain Family photoDaughter, Nancy married Jamie Fain the golfer just mentioned earlier.  They have three children, Hannah age 17, Braden age 15, and Molly age 12.  “I loved my dad’s sense of humor, “said Nancy.  “He and I liked to tease one another in an affectionate manner and I will miss that so much.”  “My son Braden seems to have inherited my dad’s sense of humor so I can always see a little of my dad in him too,” Nancy said.

Fain family :( Jamie, Nancy, Braden, Hannah, Molly) courtesy of Nancy Fain)

Son in law, Jamie remembers being with Dick at a Kansas State basketball reunion when they encountered the father of the Triangle Offense Tex Winter who, at the time- had helped Phil Jackson win 6 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls.

“I remember thinking is there no end to who Dick Stone knows,” said Jamie.  “I have always been so impressed that Dick possesses such integrity and respect for others even while knowing celebrities like Tex.”  “I was even more impressed when just a few days later I saw Tex being introduced at the NBA All star game-a man who was happy to see Dick just a day or two earlier,” Fain said.  “ Dick was a perfect role model as well…I can say with confidence I am a far better person because I had the privilege of knowing Dick for 20 years and will try to pass on what I learned simply by being around him.”

Dick’s son Doug remembers practicing baseball with his dad. “He could do everything,” said Doug.  “Pitch, hit grounders and my favorite-hit fly balls to me.”  “If I wanted to run some down that were over my head or run in for some fly balls, he was always willing to give me the practice time,” Doug said. “I could stay out there all day.  I still have memories of him in the distance with that long skinny Fungo bat.”

Doug Stone family: ( Hailey, age 9, Doug, Maddy, age 8, Morgan, age 13 and Nancy)

Doug moved back to Kansas during 2002 and played on a softball team with a buddy from high school.  “Dad and I went back to our field where we used to practice and he hit fly balls,” said Doug.  “Dad was in his 60’s and I was in my 30’s but it was just like old times.”  “He loved baseball and would have done anything to help me and he loved practicing with me,” said Doug.  “But what is most important, he never pushed me too hard and was patient with me.”

Doug appreciates how his dad kept those baseball practices in perspective.  “When I decided I didn’t want to play baseball anymore, he knew that it wasn’t in my heart and let it be, and I never felt a bit of pressure from him and he never tried to change my mind,” Dou g said.  “I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much-it was fun to the end.”  “In high school -dad and I had this running joke every time we drove by that field, which was multiple times per week, he’d say, -we should be out there hitting some.”  “I’d just sit there and wait for him to say it-and it always made us laugh,” said Doug.  “I know he was having as much fun as I was out there.”

Jay Stone, Dick’s nephew said, “Uncle Dick was partly responsible for my decision to become a career Air Force officer.”  Jay said, “I grew up hearing stories from Uncle Dick about his wild adventures in Libya when he was an Air Force lieutenant when stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, which closed in 1970.”  “I also enjoyed hearing his stories about traveling throughout Europe as coach of an Air Force basketball team.”  “I always thought that sounded like interesting duty for someone trained to be a munitions officer and he frequently told me about the quality and more important the quantity of food he was provided by the Air Force,” said Jay.  “ So, when it came time to decide which military branch to join, it was a “no brainer to select a service that would send me to exciting places destinations, stuff my gills with good chow, and assign me fun jobs.”  “In addition to career advice, I remember Uncle Dick as being one of the sweetest, caring, good natured, and humorous individuals I have ever known” Jay said.  “I will always appreciate the many things he taught me and treasure the time I spent with him.”

John said, “Dick was so proud that our son Jay was accepted to and graduated from the Air Force Academy and made it his career becoming a psychologist and full bird colonel-thanks to the Air Force.”

Jim Wallace of Overland Park was one of Dick’s best friends.  They first met when their wives volunteered their services for clean up duty at a grade school chili dinner.  “We were dutifully wiping up the tables when Dick, displaying his pitching style of old, fired a wet towel at me,” said Wallace.  “I skillfully ducked, as his fast ball had lost a little bit of its former velocity, and the wet towel went directly into the running garbage disposal.”  “Fortunately another friend, with a strong grip, removed the towel, saving Dick and me from having to go to the principal’s office”, said Wallace.  “From then on our wives wouldn’t allow us to sit side by side at any social functions- and we became known as Dickie and Jimmy.”

Another good friend-Jim Gill- helped Stone and Wallace coach a softball team for 8 year old girls- which included their own daughters.  Coaches- Wallace, Stone and Gill called themselves the “Three Amigos”. According to Wallace, Dick observed that on any given pitch not struck by a batter, a runner could- after stealing second, also safely steal third.

Photo:  Jim Wallace- (courtesy of Jim Wallace)

Jim Wallace-friendDick had commented earlier that the young 7 year old on the team was a heck of an athlete and had great speed. When the speedy 7 year old Lisa arrived at first base, coach Stone whispered in her ear, “Go all the way to third on this next pitch” - “And- she did,” said Wallace.  “On the next pitch, she took off like a flash on a straight line from first base across the pitcher’s mound right to third base much to the chagrin of her coaches.”  “But afterwards, coach Stone admitted in his skillful way that his instructions to her were not clear-and said- there’s no crying in baseball- and all was right with the world again” said Wallace. “I will treasure these memories and all the good times we had together.”

Wallace and Stone jogged together throughout their neighborhood for many years and as Wallace tells it, “We looked like Mutt and Jeff as we jogged along”.  For the younger set- Mutt and Jeff were newspaper comic strip characters from the 1950’s.  Mutt was very tall and Jeff very small.  Their most memorable jog of all time occurred one evening along a sidewalk as two young girls approached them.  Before Stone and Wallace could smile and say hello (which was their customary greeting), the girls said, “If we told you that you had a good body, would you hold it against us?’

“I’m not sure what shade of red Dick and I turned, but we were speechless,” said Wallace. “The two young girls giggled and kept walking and I think they knew they had surprised two old men and had given them a story to remember.”  “Of course our wives didn’t believe a word of it, “Wallace said. Photo of Three Amigo coaches: (Jim Gill- Dick Stone-Jim Wallace) and team- courtesy of Jim Wallace

When it came to friendships, there was no end in what Dick would do to help others during difficult times. Katie recalled that when Dick’s good friend Mike Regan and his wife were experiencing a serious medical condition with their daughter Casey, Dick would stop by their house after work, get out of the car and roll up his sleeves to shoot baskets with Casey.  Casey recovered from her cancer following treatments and went on to play on Bishop Miege’s high school basketball championship team.

Roger Craft, a Kansas State teammate, who now lives in Bozeman, Mt. shared Kansas State basketball stories.  “Dick got the name “Radar” because he could shoot the basketball from long range,” said Craft.  “We would have a game of horse after every practice and play for our desserts at the training table.”

“Dick kept me slim as I never had the opportunity to eat my ice cream,” Craft said.  “Radar” got the attention of the Missouri coach after Missouri beat Kansas State in the finals of the Big 7 pre-season Christmas tournament in Kansas City.  “About ten days later, we opened the season in Columbia,” said Craft.  “Dick made a shot that today would have been a three pointer.”

“The Missouri coach jumped up and told his defensive player to move out a step on Stone,” said Craft.  “Each time Dick’s defender moved closer, Dick would move back a step and fire away.”  “Dick shot us into the lead by half time, and by the end of the game, we kept our record alive of having never lost to Missouri in Columbia,” Craft said.

The Stones and Crafts started a Christmas pie tradition when Craft’s daughters moved to Kansas City about ten years ago.  Roger baked the pies and the families gathered for the annual pie fest.  “Dick always selected pecan but Katie never told me her preference- she’d just say ‘I like all your pies,’ Craft said.  After a few years of sending extra pie pieces home with the Stones, Craft remembers the year Katie surveyed the pies and pointed to a mince meat piece, and said, “That one is mine.”  “From then on, I always sent home one piece of pecan and one piece of mince meat pie,” said Craft.  “Dick and Katie were great friends and Norma and I will always miss those fun times we had with the pies during Christmas.”

Hayden Abbott, a former teammate who lives in Leawood, Ks, had just talked to Dick hours before the accident occurred.  Dick had been making phone calls back to Kansas from Florida to check on Abbott because Hayden is battling bone marrow cancer.

Abbott was quite shocked when he heard the news about Dick and said, “ Dick had such a wonderful attitude about life and then someone took his life in a flick of an eyelash.”  The accident is still under investigation because the errant driver was driving 55 mph in a 35 mph zone before going out of control with his vehicle before the fatal crash.

Abbott, Hayden photo B-ball

Abbott remembers a funny incident that occurred at a social function held at the KC Royals baseball stadium about 25 years ago.

  “Dick was always light hearted because he made you feel comfortable,” said Abbott.

“To show you have playful he was, he reached over and placed his two fingers on my nose and gave it a twist, then said, ‘How you doin buddy.’”?  Photo: Abbott: (courtesy of KSU Alumni Assoc.)

“The next morning I looked in the mirror and my nose looked liked someone had placed a red ping pong ball on it,” Abbott said.  “I stopped by to see Dick at Capitol Federal the next day and when he saw my nose, he said, ‘How’s Rudy doing today’? as in Rudolph the Red nose reindeer.  “From then on I’ve been Rudy ever since.”  “Dick was so much fun to be around,” said Abbott.

Photo: Katie and Dick in 2010 (Florida Beach sunset) courtesy of Katie Stone

Dick’s story doesn’t end here.  His children and grandchildren were the pride of his life and the legacy of Dick’s kind spirit and his passion for sports or whatever other activities they chose will live on through him.

If you would like to add a personal comment to Dick’s story, just send me a brief paragraph about an event or special memory that stands out in your mind and I’ll share it as an addendum in a follow up email message for all to see.

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