The measure of a hero is found among the doings in a day to day life, when the exceptional act or word appears more regularly, so that it becomes “expected,” and reveals the character of a person as “a hero.”
Stanley Caulkins was such a person.
Stanley was a World War II B-17 radio operator, an airman, and his love of flight and aircraft, discovered in the armed forces, carried over into his private life back home in Loudoun County, where he became a moving force in organizing the Leesburg Airport Commission in 1962.
Stanley was at the groundbreaking for the first local airport in 1963 with former Leesburg Mayor Frank Raflo, an effort made largely possible by the then famed entertainer, Arthur Godfrey, who lived in the area, and preferred to fly to NY to air his show.
Stanley was in the thick of it again at the celebration of a second airport, the one off Sycolin Road.
After the war, Stanley learned watchmaking and, by fits and starts, established his own jewelry store on King Street. He worked in that shop for 60 years until a fire forced him to close in 2015.
Diane Canney said, “Stanley had an honest and ethical reputation. It’s why I went to his shop to buy jewelry and for repairs. The old question is, ‘Who could you trust with your mother’s wedding ring?’ Stanley was my sure answer. Also, he had time to talk. You could come into Stanley’s shop six times, not select anything, and he wouldn’t chase you out.”
“Stanley once had a young pregnant teacher come to his shop,” said Diane, “and she asked Stanley to repair her wedding ring.”
At school, there was a question about the teacher’s pregnancy given there was no sign of a wedding ring. She did explain but it didn’t appear to be enough.
“The teacher said she went to Stanley to see if her ring was ready,” said Diane, “and it was not and it wouldn’t be for a while. Stanley solved the problem of the wagging tongues, by offering her a diamond ring to wear. Stanley told her, ‘let them see it every day.’ The teacher resisted his kindness for fear of losing such a valuable ring. Stanley told her not to worry, and said she could keep it for a year if need be.”
It’s unsurprising that Stanley was a member of the local VFW Post 1177, a member of the Leesburg Town Council, an active Rotarian, a source of “reliable gossip,” a voice of reason and man of action in local affairs.
When he died earlier this year, at 92, those who knew Stanley wanted to honor his memory.
On the day before a public memorial service, Diane stayed up into the early morning hours, turning over in her mind what would be a fitting memorial.
She made a sketch of Stanley on a bench in a posture and location where others could sit beside him. The idea caught on and the challenge was to find a sculptor worthy of the undertaking.
Lovettsville’s Jeff Hall, an artist, is a local treasure and a world-renowned sculptor who burnished his natural talent at the National Cathedral with sculptor Frederick Hart, and his works are found in the Cathedral, at the U.S. Capitol and other notable public and private spaces.
When Jeff was chosen, he began a life size clay bust from pictures of Stanley, and created a small clay model of Stanley seated, and Jeff will work these clay elements into a finished ensemble that will be cast in bronze at a foundry.
Jeff has had to model himself for the work so that he may capture the posture and folds of the seated Stanley.
It was important for Jeff to add elements associated with Stanley such as an open pocket watch for this long time watchmaker.
What remains? Dianne said, “We have raised a fair amount of funds to make this happen, but need a fair amount more.”
[Donations are accepted at www.leesburgpublicarts.org, and, otherwise, can be sent to , the Stanley Caulkins Memorial Project, 312-F East Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176.]