Paul Bridges Stogsdill, 95, of Wagner passed away peacefully in the Good Samaritan Society-Wagner nursing home, early Saturday, January 23, 2021.
Funeral Services are 10:30 a.m. Friday, January 29, 2021 at the United Methodist Church in Wagner.
Visitation and opportunity for sharing is Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Peters Funeral Home in Wagner. Paul’s family requests that those attending wear masks and follow social distancing. Burial is at the ZCBJ Cemetery, rural Wagner, with military honors.
Paul’s service will be streamed on the Wagner, SD United Methodist Church Facebook page.
In lieu of flowers, feel free to donate to the Wagner Good Samaritan Society Nursing Home; 515 W Hwy 46, Wagner, SD 57380.
Paul was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, on January 8, 1926, to Walter Oates Stogsdill and Mary (Moore) Stogsdill.
Drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1944, shortly after his 18th birthday, Paul was in the Carrier Aircraft Service Unit #1, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for two years. In 1946, he was transferred to Guam, where he served in the 103rd Construction Battalion, Seabees. Paul was then transferred back to Pearl Harbor, where he was assigned to Fleet Aircraft Service Unit # 11. Early in 1947, while stationed in Guam, Paul suffered a back injury, getting crushed between two vehicles while doing his job. This injury was to plague him, off and on, for the rest of his life. Paul was discharged in December, 1947, classified as MM2C/Motor Machinist 2nd Class. He had just passed the test giving him1st Class status, but his injury erased his promotion.
In 1948, Paul married Aliitasi Suapaia, a union from which, in the following year, their one and only child, Paulette, was born.
In 1949, Paul worked as a fireman with the 14th Naval District Fire Department in Hawaii.
In 1950, he attended vocational school in Chicago, and in 1951, Paul moved to Wagner, SD, where he worked for, and with, his brother, Leonard, in an auto body shop.
It was in 1951, that Paul entered the world of stock car racing, along with his brother, Leonard. Little did they know what legendary stock car racing heroes they would become to countless loyal & adoring fans! In his very first race, unbeknownst to him, until brother Leonard pointed it out, Paul was surprised to discover that he had won third place. Paul kept that humble prize money check until 1998, when he gave it to Jeff and Tom Savage to be kept as stock car racing memorabilia.
Paul married Mary Ann Stekly in June 1952.
Tragically, it was in August, 1955, that Paul’s beloved brother, Leonard, got hurt while racing and spent the next and last 4 years of his life, unconscious, in the Sioux Falls Veteran’s Hospital. Out of respect for his brother and his brother’s family, Paul retired from racing & turned his creative talents to restoring numerous, ( 20+), antique vehicles, including 3 Harley Davidson motorcycles (1917, 1926 & 1931), and many beautifully restored antique cars, including: 1920 Dodge, 1926 Model T, 1923 Durant, 1931 Model A & many others. A Republic truck is in the Wagner Historical Museum and two of his motorcycles and a 1939 Ford Coupe, (his last restored car, which became a family project), are on display at the A & A Salvage Yard Museum in Rapid City.
In 1957 and 1958, Paul owned and drove gravel trucks, doing road construction. After returning to Wagner from Hawaii with his daughter, Paulette, in 1959, Paul found himself employed by Farmers Exchange, an International Harvester dealership, under Casey Bus. Continuing his work for International, Paul worked for 7 more years as a shop foreman & truck salesman, where he received the “Salesman of the Year” award, more than once.
In 1967, Paul was hired by the Wagner Public School District to manage the entire school bus operation, which he successfully accomplished for the next 10 years. In 1977, he was transferred to the inside of the classroom, as an Agricultural Power Mechanics instructor until his retirement 13 years later. Also in 1977, he became a grandfather to his one and only grandchild, Adam.
In 1969, at the age of 43, Paul’s racing spirit pulled him back into the stock car racing arena, where he continued winning trophies and fans for the next X number of years. In 1998, Paul was inducted into Husets Speedway’s very first annual “Hall of Fame”, along with 4 other outstanding racing veterans,.
Following his divorce in 1984, Mara Beckwith became his longtime friend & companion. After Paul was diagnosed with macular degeneration, Mara became his eyes, ears & caregiver for the next 24 years, assisting him as he slowly became visually & hearing-impaired. The love and affection Paul received, not only from Mara, but also from her children, is a gift for which Paul was always grateful!
Paul retired in 1990. While his creative mind, his master-craftsmanship & his legendary racing skills are outstanding, each in its own right, Paul’s true and lasting legacy (as one of his nephews recently pointed out), is his essentially-gentle personality and his oh-so-generous nature. Ask anyone who’s ever crossed paths with Paul Stogsdill, & you will hear a story of their being on the receiving end of his on-the-spot assistance when it was needed most. Whether it was a malfunctioning vehicle, a financial bind or the need for a listening & non-judgmental ear, Paul’s time, attention & wisdom were yours — a wisdom that typically included the concept of “ walking in the other person’s shoes.” Throughout his entire life, Paul left a trail of “random acts of kindness”, which he soon forgot but others always remembered.
Paul is survived by his long-term companion Mara Beckwith of Tyndall, SD; beloved daughter, Paulette Ford (Linn — deceased) of Mankato, MN; grandson Adam Ford (Ryan Calvin) of St. Paul, MN; sister Lois Kearley of Pensacola, FL; nephew George Henley (Deborah) of Fairhope, AL; nieces: Lana Dodge (Dennis) of Avon, SD, Linda Morse (Ray) of Elko, NV; his nephews: Gene Stogsdill (Vicki) of Tabor, SD, Lawrence/“PeeWee” (Polly — deceased) Stogsdilll of Lakeside, CA; and a number of great-nieces and nephews.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents, Oates & Mary Stogsdill; brother, Leonard Stogsdill; sister, Louise Henley; nephews: Leonard Stogsdill Jr., Wilson Henley, Calvin Heine, and David Heine.
Yankton Press & Dakotan
January 27, 2021