Faith, Family, Friends
Pastor’s Wife Stays Active At 92
Ninety-two-year old Alice Stoddard came up knowing what it was to do a day’s work. She was born on an Ohio farm in the late 1920s. She remembers driving the Ford tractor for various jobs, one being to cultivate corn. She also fed the chickens, packed eggs into crates to go to market and milked cows using milkers, “not by hand.”
She vividly recalls a time before World War II and before her father owned a tractor, when “the weeds got ahead of the corn due to weather.” Her father, mother, older sister, Rachel, and Alice hoed eight acres of corn by hand.
“My dad had a terrific memory and he’d tell jokes as we went down the rows,” says the cheerful lady.
Harvesting the wheat was a process for the family members. The mechanical binder would cut the wheat, causing it to drop to a canvas mat and then cogs “took it up.” Two people would stand the stalks of wheat while the binder tied them together.
“We made shocks of the wheat. I still remember four in the middle, three on each side and two on top. Corn was shocked the same. Those were big. I never helped shock them,” she explains. “My dad gave us a lemon drop while we worked.”
“We made our own entertainment.”
She remembers when she was a preschooler playing church while her parents were husking corn.
“The stocks of corn were the church pews.”
Her mother taught first through fourth grades in a two-room schoolhouse. In the winter months, the daughter would play school using her mother’s flash cards and other aids and supplies.
“Look how I ended up, teaching and a pastor’s wife.”
“Between our dining room and living room we had pocket doors. My sister and I had a program and would open them at the proper time. It was our stage.”
When she got a pair of roller skates in the third grade, she could skate on the sidewalk at her grandmother’s house and the area of their barn that had a concrete floor. Their neighbors had an inground pool and Alice and her sister could hear laughing and the sounds of people having a good time, but the girls were only allowed to go swimming about once per summer, due to farm responsibilities, but “Dad made work fun.”
She remembers seeing a chameleon when her father took them to a circus when she was a preschooler. They, also, went to the Cleveland Exposition in approximately 1937, where she remembers seeing a girl wandering around while passing out one stick of gum to each child from the pair of drums she was carrying.
There were a lot of family gatherings held on Sunday afternoons where she played with her cousins.
“I always got everything that went around, pneumonia, measles, mumps, chicken pox and German measles, but I survived,” she says. “I had a doll that went with me every place, Jimmy. One time I woke up when I had measles and saw that my dad had put a bunch of red spots on Jimmy.”
“I remember when we got our first radio. We had always had a phonograph that you cranked. We had a crank-type wall phone, but in order to have money for piano lessons, they gave up the phone. Later, when we got another phone, it was a stick phone.”
She graduated in 1949 from Otterbein College, where she met her husband, Albert Stoddard, who became a pastor. The couple married in July after Alice’s graduation. Reverend Stoddard attended seminary in Denver, Colorado where his wife taught math. He pastored churches for a few years each near 1,000 Islands, Port Henry and Salem, N.Y. before their final and longest charge in Randolph started in 1967.
When the couple served in Salem, their charge was two newly-merged churches that were still alternating services month by month in each of the two churches.
“One was built in 1797 and the other was from the Revolution. People had their own places to sit in their home church. The people in the church’s ancestors had gone way back.”
She taught math at Randolph Central School from 1969 to 1982.
“I never did a resume. I desperately needed a job when we lived in Denver. I was terrified to drive so I took a trolley connected to an overhead wire.”
She applied at a school and would stop in from time to time to see if they had an opening for her. In the meantime, she was hired to serve coffee at Samsonite during the morning and sew liners for luggage in the afternoon, but then she got the call she’d been waiting for and never started the Samsonite job.
The pair moved to Frewsburg in 1985, after her husband retired from Randolph United Presbyterian Church.
“I enjoyed the role of being a pastor’s wife and mistress of the manse, which welcomed numerous exchange students and others who needed a temporary home.”
Over the course of her married life, Mrs. Stoddard traveled extensively with her husband. They have been to every state except for Mississippi and drove to Alaska twice. They have visited several Canadian provinces and have been to England, Scotland, Wales and Italy twice and three times to Switzerland. Single visits have been made to the Netherlands, France, Turkey, China, India and Mexico. A church mission trip took them to Puerto Rico and a study tour to Israel. They lived in Thailand from 1985 to 1987, where she taught at Chiang Mai International School and her husband volunteered at a hospital.
They were still able to travel a bit after Reverend Stoddard was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was at this time that Mrs. Stoddard went on one of her favorite trips, a bus trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
“I’ve been a caregiver. We first had Bert’s dad with us,” she says. “My folks would stay with us for the winter and with my sister in the summer. Bert would make breakfast and lunch for them. I retired early when my parents needed year-round care, the last two years they were with us.”
She volunteered with RSVP for 20 years, served as an AARP tax aide and has assisted elderly with Medicare insurance help. She enjoys sewing and has made many garments for her family, some doll clothes and two tents and has knitted sweaters, mittens and Christmas stockings. She likes to read historical, mystery and romance novels and does puzzles and always solves the cryptogram, jumble, sudoku and crosswords puzzles that run regularly in the Post-Journal.
The Stoddard’s have three children. Albert III, known to the family as AJ, is a transportation consultant living near Salt Lake City, Utah. Ruth McLaughlin is a retired math teacher and resides in Randolph. Stephen is a veterinarian in Perry, N.Y. There are 11 grandchildren and nine, soon to be eleven, great-grandchildren.
Alice recently sold her home and now resides at Frewsburg Rest Home for Adults. She says she is working on making church a priority there and has organized weekly Protestant services and monthly communion. She visits the home’s gym when it is open twice weekly and is involved with a crochet club.
She says she tries to talk to people to cheer them because she “can’t stand to see people unhappy.”
“I can’t believe I’m so busy here doing nothing,” she says with a grin.
“She’s a wonderful, wonderful woman who has had a huge impact on so many people with her wanting people to be happy,” says Nancy Pihlblad, who attends Randolph United Presbyterian Church and is a close personal friend.
Her granddaughter Kara McLaughlin Benson says, “The whole family lovingly calls her ‘Colonel’ because she bosses everybody around.”
The ever-happy woman sold her car last November, but still goes on road trips with family members having recently visited Hershey, Pennsylvania to see her new great-granddaughter and has plans to go to a wedding in Ohio this summer.
“The theme of my life is faith, family and friends,” says the nonagenarian.