My Dad, Charles “Don” Stalker, passed last week. Don was 92. He had lived a whole life.
Don was a son, brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and husband. He was also a corporate executive, golf enthusiast, and someone whose humor was the epitome of the “dad joke” genre. He loved puns in particular.
Don is survived by Jude, his wife of several decades, and their son Quentin, now 16. Both live in Flat Rock, North Carolina.
Don is also survived by his ex-wife Joanne and their children, Chris, Dave, Bob, and Jim (me). Don has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Don was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the second child in a family of four. His older brother was gunned down in WWII. This was a significant loss to Don, who maintained letters and medals from his lost brother. He also visited his grave in Belgium.
Don joined the Navy and was discharged before deployment when the war abruptly ended.
Don married Joanne, and they started a family. Using the GI Bill, Don spent seven years attending the New Jersey Institute of Technology at night, earning a BS in Engineering. Working as an engineer with several companies, the Stalkers settled in Eatontown, NJ.
Looking to earn more money, Don pivoted to sales from engineering. Riding the wave made by the Industrial Military Complex in the 1960s, Don found success selling electronics and finding a long-term home with Teledyne Relays.
Eatontown to Palos Verdes Estates
In 1972 with a promotion from El Segundo, CA-based Teledyne, the Stalkers moved west, settling in Palos Verdes Estates. Don joined the Palos Verdes Estates Country Club and made many friends. PVE will always be the favorite place he has lived in his life.
These pictures, which I love, were taken in the mid-seventies at the Teledyne Relays HQ. I love the hip-at-the-time photo-gray glasses, polka-dot tie, and short sleeve business shirt. Classic in that weird seventies way. All that is missing is the Ford Granada company car.
From the PVE base, the three Stalkers (Don, Joanne, and me) had much time with the rest of the family. His daughter Chris (and husband Greg) settled in Santa Barbara and started a family. His son, Dave, had settled in Redondo Beach. Bob even came out to try California for a few years.
There was a lot of good time spent in PVE, either in the pool during the summer or getting together during holidays. Also, there were many visits to Santa Barbara. Consequently, these were happy times for Don. And why not? It was family, the PV Country Club, his job at Teledyne, and his house with a pool and a view in PVE. All the things he loved. Don had it all.
Therefore, this is the Don I will never forget. Happy in PVE.
Don also had a go at a few other ventures. He tried his own electronics company, Microelectronic Relays in Cupertino. Later, there was a Bed and Breakfast in Atascadero. Later still, he rejoined Teledyne moving back to his beloved PVE. He capped off his formal career with a year in Europe working for Teledyne. All good times with his wife, Jude.
Don and Jude moved to Flat Rock, NC, where he built a house, joined a Country Club, had another son, and started working part-time for Tyco. He loved the Smokey Mountains and his Pete Dye-designed golf course. Don also loved nearby Asheville. He played golf as long as he could, eventually being sidelined due to a should/neck injury.
Having had thousands of phone calls with him, I know above everything he adored his children and was always delighted to speak to or visit them. He was always concerned with how everyone was doing.
In our last conversation just a few weeks ago, Don spoke of coming to Granite Bay next year for our son’s high school graduation. Still going, planning at 92. That was Don. Tireless.
Two short stories illustrate who Don was.
Story One – The Serious One
I was 27 and had made a mess of my life. Unbeknownst to my family, I had flunked out of UCSB my final quarter. I told them I had graduated. The time had come to clean this up.
I politely apologized to my dad, letting him know the facts, adding, “What can I do to make this right?”
Without hesitation, he said, “You can finish your degree ASAP, and let me pay for it!”
That was the kind of father/man he was. And having that degree changed my career trajectory immediately upon graduation.
Story Two – The Silly One
While in Reno, our son “won” a whoopie cushion playing the games of chance in Circus Circus.
On the way back to the room, Annette suggested we get some coffee and asked Don to watch Riley, who was seven. They happened to be near the elevator. When we got back, as we approached the elevator, we heard this devilish laughter coming from Don and Riley. We slowed down and spied on them to see what was happening.
What we saw shocked us.
Every time the elevator door opened, one would sit on the whoopie cushion on a nearby chair, startling folks with the obnoxious fart noise! As a result, Riley and Don, one seven and the other in their mid-eighties would be sent into uncontrollable giggling attacks. It was a surreal scene of farts and devilish laughter from this unlikely pair. It’s a moment we’ll never forget.
Losing a Dad is a big deal. No doubt. I’m lucky. I had him for many years, and we shared a lot of great times. As a result, I honestly don’t think there was anything we needed to talk about. It had all been said. Our last conversation was a good one.
Don taught me many valuable lessons. Above all, he was always a good hang. Whoopie cushion or not.
RIP – Don Stalker.