After spending some time researching people from the past, it would be hard not to notice how some people are remembered fondly at passing, and others not so much. Some well-known people in the community get their obligatory obituaries, tersely written, while others get a long and detailed one, splashed with kind words and compliments; and, memorials besides the obituary are found.*
A case in point is that of Stanley McFarland, 1879-1940. One could say he was a beautiful man who led a beautiful life; I say that he appears to have been a rare, super-fine human being. The following information is from his obituary in The Times Herald (February 24, 1940, pages 1 and 5). Following that, two memorials that anyone would be proud of are quoted in full; please read them to learn more about this example of a man.
Stanley was 60 when he died, having been laid low by a virulent infection that had started in his ear; apparently surgery made it worse. He had come to live in old Fort Gratiot as a boy when his parents, John and Catherine McFarland, moved here from Ontario (Port Hope), Canada. He grew to be 6’4” and was an “outstanding” athlete, being “an exceptionally good tennis player.” He was a director of the YMCA for some years. Stanley was known for an extraordinary mathematical ability, where “he could add large columns of figures in his head more rapidly than other clerks could do by using the adding machines. His answers to mathematical problems were always found to be accurate.” But he wasn’t just brilliant at adding numbers. He was highly regarded for his ability to analyze whole and difficult financial reports and regurgitating them in an easily understood way to others. He seemed pretty brilliant and inquisitive in general, as he traveled by car throughout the country, delighting in learning all about different areas.
Stanley was very active in bringing manufacturing companies to Port Huron (even if they only purchased property and never built; much of this took place before and during the Depression). Such companies were Pittsburgh Plate Glass company, Hercules Powder company, and American Enameled Magnet Wire company, and he played an important part in keeping the Grand Trunk shops here after some had burned down (the railroad had planned to move them to another city). He helped develop the “Sand Hills” area of Port Huron (“between Howard and Griswold streets and from Fourteenth to Twenty-fourth street”) as well. He was a founder of the Port Huron Country Club (Port Huron Gold & Country Club), and for many years was its treasurer.
He traveled to Lansing and west Michigan a great deal as director and controller of Federated Publications, Inc., which he became involved in in 1932. This company published the Lansing State Journal, the Grand Rapids Herald, and the Battle Creek Enquirer-News. It also operated an engraving plant in Grand Rapids and a radio station in Battle Creek. Beginning in 1936, Stanley was a director of Mueller Brass, and he was active in both these firms at the time of his death.
Beautiful things were written of Stanley in his obituary, and a little of what he had said in life was recorded too. Stanley was “an outstanding citizen of Port Huron with an impressive record of unselfish community service.” “Although Mr. McFarland never sought the limelight and seldom spoke at public gatherings, he was always a forceful and important factor in community projects. His counsel was sought on many occasions and his advice was always found to be worthwhile. He always remained in the background in any activity in which he was engaged.” Stanley and Louis Weil were honored for their community service in 1931 at a banquet at Harrington Hotel (400 persons attended). Stanley was given a humidor there with the inscription, “Presented to Stanley W. McFarland by the people of Port Huron and nearby communities as evidence of their appreciation of his unselfish community effort and human civic interest. March 26, 1931.” At this banquet, he gave a rare short speech, praising others and the exhibited community spirit. What’s more, “Someone recently said to me that a change has come about in Port Huron. I do not agree. Rather I would believe there has come an awakening. We are now looking to the future with well-founded optimism. The accomplishments have been due to the co-operation of the people.”
STANLEY W. McFARLAND (The Times Herald, February 24, 1940, page 4.)
Stanley W. McFarland has passed on.
In the prime of his life and its usefulness, that life has been cut down, and the places where he has been a familiar figure for many years will know him no more.
We find it hard sometimes to understand why this should be so, but we submit to the inscrutable ways of Providence which overrules the best laid plans and the fondest hopes of man.
Stanley McFarland will be greatly missed in this community where he has spent his life, and to the welfare of which he was devoted.
A man of great physique, there seemed to be every reason that he should have many years yet of useful, and happy life.
A man of fine judgment and business ability, he inspired confidence in all those with whom he came in contact.
A man of quiet disposition, and modest withall, he was yet a man whose words carried conviction, and who held the respect of his fellow men in a very high degree.
Never a man to do things in a spectacular way, Stanley McFarland worked quietly and persistently for the welfare and the progress of the community he loved and in which he spent his life.
How much he has done may never be known, but his fellow citizens have on occasion shown that they believed in him and appreciated his labors and honored him for his good citizenship.
He had an important part for many years, although often behind the scenes and in a quiet way, in every community effort and civic enterprise, and gave generously of his time and effort in ways that money cannot buy.
He was a good citizen, a good and true American.
He was a man whom one was fortunate to have on his list of friends. And among such he will long be sadly missed in all walks of life.
He was a good husband; and our warmest sympathies go out to the helpmeet whom he left behind. May the great Father of All sustain and comfort her in this hour of her great bereavement.
Between You and Me (column by L.A.W.: The Times Herald, February 25, 1940, page 4; for ease of reading, I have added paragraphs since the original is one long one.)
Stanley McFarland is dead. I can scarcely believe it, although I have followed his illness very closely ever since he was first taken sick several weeks ago. It is hard for me to realize that I shall not see him in life again. He was my friend and companion in younger days; he was my associate in business the past eight years. I loved the man. He was kindly and thoughtful. He was quiet, reserved and yet tremendously forceful. He possessed a mind that was unusually keen and analytical and he was highly respected by all of his business associates.
Mac, as we affectionately called him, never let anybody down. He was a loyal and true friend and not the fair weather kind. When trouble came he was the first to go out looking for you and to try to do something to help you. He knew how, and there was about him a certain innate dignity which distinguished him from many of his fellows. He was big in body, big in mind and big in heart and he was above everything, always a gentleman. He dearly loved his brave wife and his home.
Mac came of fine stock. His father was a railroad shop man, religious, honest and industrious. His mother, a remarkable woman of fine intellect, who lived close to a hundred years and retained to the very last a clear brain and a live interest in everything about her.
Above everything, Mac was tolerant. Often we travelled the streets together, soliciting subscriptions for some public enterprise, a factory maybe, a community chest, or possibly the Y.M.C.A., or something of that kind. He was interested in everything worth while in the community. He gave his time and his money to it. Our news columns have told the story of this public service, so I shall not repeat it here. It is enough to say that he was unselfish and that many a man, who didn’t even know him during his lifetime, has a good job in Port Huron today, because of Stanley McFarland’s efforts in days gone by.
To me, an incident that best illustrates his true character happened one day when we were out soliciting for one of those projects. We visited a certain man who was not in very good humor. He was a good citizen and often generous, but he used us rather badly at the moment and we finally retreated to the street. I was roundly denouncing the fellow as Mac and I walked slowly along and he let me go on for some time. Then, in his characteristic way, easy and unostentatious, he turned to me and said: “You know what I’ve been thinking?” I confessed I didn’t. “Well,” he said, with that glint of humor we could often detect in his fine blue eyes, “I’ve just been thinking, if you had labored under the handicaps all your life that poor fellow has, how terrible you would be to get along with!” That was Mac, God rest his soul in peace. He could always find something good in the other fellow and he was never willing to pass snap judgment on anyone. I believe in God, I believe in life after death and I believe I shall see him again. Until then, good-bye, Mac, old boy, take care of yourself.
To his credit, this is not all that was written of Stanley. He was survived by his wife, Gertrude Collins McFarland.
* It amazes me, too, when looking up more contemporary obituaries, that family members don’t submit anything at all about their deceased loved one at the funeral home page for such things; they seem completely unloved and unrespected.