How He Made Us Feel

A Eulogy for Stanley Howard Way

August 23, 2023

Hi. My name is Tom. I am Stan's oldest child. On behalf of my siblings John, Melinda, and Julie, thank you so much for being here today.

So, this piece of string walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, "Sorry pal, but we don't serve pieces of string in here. Get lost." Dejected, the piece of string walks outside, ties himself into a knot, and messes up his hair. He walks back into the bar, at which point the bartender says, "Hey, aren't you that piece of string from before?" "No," says the piece of string. "I'm a frayed knot."

That was Dad's favorite joke. It's top-tier humor like this that made us so thankful our father chose to only be a rocket scientist and not a standup comedian.

People won't remember you for the things you say. They'll remember you for how you made them feel.

This proverb works out well for our dad, Stan Way, because he was a man of few words. He was gentle, unassuming, caring. But not talkative. Words. That was our mother Laurie's domain. Dad was good at listening. He got a lot of practice. 52 years of practice. They were a good fit.

When Dad was a teenager, my Uncle George nicknamed him "Bucky," naming him after a famous Washington Senator's baseball player of the 1920s and 30s, Stanley "Bucky" Harris. The nickname stuck. Lots of people called him "Stan" or "Stanley" or "Big Stan", but the ones who knew him the longest called him "Bucky." He loved that.

Bucky had a quiet determination.

Dad's superpower was his kindness.

If you were lucky enough to know him, you can't help but look back on some moment and smile… and remember how he made you feel.

That was Dad. He was always there.

There were challenges with his health over the years… but he never let life's challenges hold him back. The same thing could also be said for life's… rules of decorum.

If you've ever been to a restaurant with Bucky, you know that he had a real mischievous streak. He inevitably would perform his famous Spoon Trick. This he would do to the delight of everyone present… except our mom.

Here's how you do the Spoon Trick. You line up two spoons, end to end, with the bowl of the second spoon resting on the handle of the first spoon. Then you position a glass just in front of the second spoon.

Now, you hit the bowl of the first spoon with a karate chop, which catapults the second spoon flipping into the air and… CLINK! into the glass. Only, it never works on the first attempt. Not the second. Not the third. It could take 4 or more tries. CLANK. CLANK. With everybody in the restaurant now watching.

Meanwhile, Mom was beside herself… CLANK. "Stan." CLANK. "Stan." CLINK! So wonderful.

By the way, if Dad was that bartender, you know he would've served that piece of string a beer. I'm just sayin'.

You're probably not going to remember what was said here today. You're not. And that's ok. But I hope you'll remember how being here, together, made you feel.

Oh. He wanted me to leave you with this one, final message. This is from Dad, Stan, Stanley, Bucky, Grandpa, Big Stan… to you.

(Hold up a glass. Drop a spoon into it. CLINK!)

More Remembrances

There wasn't enough time during the Eulogy reading at the service to include all of the wonderful remembrances, so here are some of those extra ones collected from family and friends...

Stanley Howard Way was born on April 28, 1938, to his parents, Ellen and Howard, and his older sisters Margaret and Alice. They lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland in a house that was so small, you had to go outside just to turn around. My dad’s room was in the attic. It was just big enough for his bed and a short wave radio that he used to communicate with friends all over the world using nothing more than a sequence of dots and dashes.

Bucky’s interest in radio and electronics led him to Penn State University and then The Carnegie Institute of Technology (you probably know it as Carnegie Mellon) where he earned a master’s degree in electronics engineering.

Here’s an unexpected plot twist. Bucky went on to a stellar career as the starting left fielder for his NASA softball team. I think that when Uncle George gave him that nickname, Bucky, he knew that my dad was destined for sports greatness. Because, and I’m not exaggerating, Bucky’s team was often the first one to reach the post-game pizza parlor. All true.

He supported Mom in all of her years performing in musicals with the Goddard M.A.D. (Music And Drama) theater group. He made good use of his trumpet playing as a member of the orchestra for many of their productions.

Fiddler on the Roof cast photo, 1981, NASA MAD Productions

He was a diehard Senators and Nats fan. And a devoted son to his own mom, especially in her own later years.

When we'd watch a football game as a family and a great play would happen for our team, he'd exclaim "woo hoo!" and he slapped his faux-leather ottoman a few times like it was a bongo drum.

When he sneezed, instead of the traditional ACHOO! he’d perform a short jazz number, like this: Ahh-ahh… Scooby-dooby doo doo beedly boo bop. Stan was very frugal... except when he sneezed.

Tom remembers when he was very young going to work with Stan, and how Stan and his colleagues would stand around and talk about work stuff, all the while jingling the change in their pockets.

When he sang in church (which is was not very comfortable doing), he had a very gravelly voice.

He never kneeled in church. He'd lean way forward and clasp his hands so from the front it would look like he was kneeling but from the side you could see his was still sitting on the edge of the pew.

Julie recalls getting to go to work sometimes with Dad, where he’d let her get whatever she wanted from the vending machine. And he’d sneak her into scary movies. And he slip her some cash when she’d come home from college with the playful admonition, “Don’t tell Mom.”

When he would travel, Dad would always bring us back the coolest gifts from his adventures to Africa and Europe, Russia, Japan, and The Netherlands.

Although he didn’t realize it at the time, Stan first met the love of his life, Laura Jane Pelland in high school. A few years later, on a date at an amusement park, he did realize it. He bought our mom a medallion from a vending machine, custom-inscribed with his mischievous, pet name for her at the time, “Sugar Toots”. Sugar Toots. How sweet? We never learned what that meant, and thankfully Dad was too kind to tell us.

He was an active member of the Montgomery County senior volleyball league and really enjoyed spending time with his volleyball teammates.

From Brady:

Some of my oldest memories are of Grandpa pulling us around in the bike trailer out in front of their house on Drake Terrace. I always liked that street. It felt comforting and safe.

When we were old enough to run with some amount of coordination, Grandpa would invite us one day a year to the track at Rockville HS to run one mile. If we finished, we got a dollar. I never finished, and I complained the whole way. I think that this was his way of inviting us into his passions. I always loved seeing the pictures from his races.

I only realize now he did not only try to introduce us to his passion for running but for science! When we were young he would show us how to pick up an ice cube with string and salt. My favorite trick he showed us was sprinkling salt and pepper into a bowl, dipping your finger in soap, and then into the bowl and watching the particles separate to either side. It was like magic to me!

He always brought joy and fun to the dinner table. How could I write an email about my memories of Grandpa Stan without mentioning the spoon trick? We have passed it on to Doyle family events, and I have even caused scenes with my friends out at dinner showing them the fun game while waiting for the check. I wonder if he knows how far the joy he shared has spread.

One of the last memories I have with him is when I went to visit him in NC. We sat and looked through his old high school yearbook. He showed me all the clubs he was in, his old friends, and even people he did not like so much. I felt more connected to his life in those moments than I had in a long time.

Pictures of both Grandma and Grandpa remind me of how beautiful they truly are. They always showed up to the things I found important, like my graduation and softball games. Even when I was not very talented, I remember them coming up to me after a game to tell me I did great. I'm glad he got to see me walk across the stage for my college graduation, even if it was virtually. Knowing that he saw me makes the already big accomplishment feel bigger.

I would brag about his work with NASA often. Now that he has passed, I find myself searching for him in the stars--quiet yet bright.

From Ray S.:

I thought grandpa had one of the coolest jobs when I was a kid (aside from Cal Ripken, Jr.) and as complex it was, it was a little easier to understand than my dad's job as a mechanical engineer. He had a real passion for science and space and loved to share that with us. From helping with all of our science fair projects, to taking the time for class presentations growing up. I always looked up to him and saw him as a celebrity in some sort for working at NASA. So much so that when offered a chance to visit the White House and meet the president or visit Grandpa at work and take the afternoon at the Air and Space Museum, it was a no brainer. I wanted to spend the day with Grandpa.

One night in high school, my parents were out at a work function. I had basketball practice that night and had been dropped off at home by the coach. Left to my own devices for dinner, I opened a can of refried beans and sliced my hand open pretty badly. Knowing I needed immediate assistance and mom and dad were out, Grandpa was always the one who we called. And he was there not 10 minutes later. He saved the day with not only a lift to the hospital but a McDonald's dinner.

From Julie:

Despite decades of trying, we could never get him to admit which of us was his favorite daughter.

He wanted all of his kids and grandkids to have the best education they could, so he supported us in so many ways. He never complained once about how many times he helped any of us move to and from college dorms and new homes, again and again and again.

Julie recalls how excited he’d get to help her with her school science projects.

A man of few words, but you’d get to know him through his good deeds and understated mannerisms.

From Ray E.:

One time I asked him, about a year after his wife died, if he wanted to take a trip? If he could go anywhere in the world, or take a cruise, or an all-inclusive resort vacation, what would he want to do? Anyone who knows your Dad understands two things: He was very fugal and he has been on many trips over the years. While I didn't know him in the earlier year of family trips, I did hear about his trips to Holland (tulips and lederhosen), USSR (tipping with Marlboro Reds & Wrigley's Gum and using the executive bathroom in the government science building that consisted of hole in the floor and a stack of old newspaper in the corner), Nice, France (not so much about NASA activities there, but he know he could get me to laugh when he described the topless beach).

He was one of the great people in my life and when he gave me advice it was short and to the point. Many but not all know Melinda was adopted. This is important to the story because Melinda's biological mother passed away at young age. I confided in Stan that I did not know how to support Melinda and I did not feel comfortable with talking about death. I was hesitant to go to the funeral because I didn't know how I could make things better for Melinda. He said simply to be there for your family. It was clear to be what he meant by that. Be there, be a shoulder, and be supportive by listening.

My favorite story is one that I heard but wasn't around for when it happened. This is a story that, if we pushed Stan, he would tell it. He was driving the old van with the stripes and porthole when he started to experience brake problems. He pumps the brakes enough to slow but with only limited success... and then rear-ends the women's car in front of him while both are still moving. While her best move would have been to come to a complete stop, she didn't stop. She didn't know what was going on. So, she pulls up to what she thought was a better location to stop, but what she does not know is the lack of an emergency brake system and all the pumping of the brake pedal was not stopping Stan from rear-ending her again. This finally enabled him to stop. Before Stan could explain while telling the story that this was the only logical option, laughs would erupt from listening with everybody speculating about what must have been going through that lady's mind when she got rear-ended again. Every time I heard the story I got to see Stan smile at the enjoyment he got telling the story of his own misfortune.

A Ford Econoline Van, like the one we had

Stan worked on a NASA project for a long time, collaborating with Russian scientists. One time when they were visiting the U.S., he invited all of the Russian space program scientists to dinner at his house on Drake Terrace. They accepted, and Melinda was asked to be in attendance for the dinner. So, Melinda lets me know that I am invited, too. The day arrives and, as the high school boyfriend, I was not sure how I should interact with the NASA and Russian scientists. So, I stayed out on the porch for most of the 3 or 4 hour event. I spent the better part of that time talking with two Russian scientists, and chain smoking with them. They were happy to talk about fixing cars and talking about the neighborhood around the house and the similarities to where they lived. Fast forward to a few years later... the Berlin Wall comes down. A day or two later, a Russian scientist that Stan corresponded with emails to say that the two project managers on all the projects that managed schedules, the ones I spent a few hours chain smoking with on the porch, were KGB agents. Stan's work at NAS has had a great scientific and historical impact by helping collect atmospheric data from our solar system's planets, helping us to better understand Earth's atmosphere. Looking back, I'm not sure if it was his plan to scare his daughter's boyfriend with killer KGB guys who were probably there just to make sure Russia's keys space program scientists did not defect to the U.S.. Regardless, this was just one more reminder to me of how Stan had a historical and long lasting impact on my own life.

From Emma:

Grandpa collected currency and coins from his travels and on time when we were visiting he just handed me this incredibly heavy envelope of random, international coins. Some of the money was not even in existence anymore. It was thoughtful and funny and I still have it!

From Mellie:

One thing that's kept with me was when, on my last visit with him in Raleigh, Grandpa kept hounding the nurse to make sure I had a desert and a drink when we were there for lunchtime. It was very important to him that they took care of me, too.

From his niece Carol (Thompson) Reyes:

Your dad was always kind and thoughtful. One time when he was in San Diego when my kids were little, we all went to the zoo. His playfulness and focus on my little ones impressed me about the type of person he chose to be.

From his nephew Paul Thompson:

When I was a kid, other kids had baseball cards, but I had satellite cards that I got from my Uncle Stan. I will always remember him fondly.

From his cousin Nancy Davis Babb:

Such a great guy! He will certainly be missed. I’m happy though that He and Laurie are together again.

From his friend Donna Whittaker:

Your dad touched countless lives in so many ways and he was a modest quiet person. He opened up worlds for me and my family.
He was not only instrumental in getting myasthenia gravis information on the internet but also connecting patients from around the world with his MgMail email lists.

Donna Whittaker with Laurie and Stan Way

On the Facebook Myasthenia Gravis group this was the announcement:

Our dear friend, the Father on Myasthenia on the Internet has passed away. He had the wisdom and foresight in the early 1990's on the old Prodigy Online Service to establish a community to share myasthenia gravis information and to support each other.

I found him on a Medical Support Board for myasthenia when I was going through a rough period in my life. He formed live chat groups for patients, a webpage devoted to links of Myasthenia information called MG links, an email listserv with thousands of participants all over the world.

Dr. James Howard and Stan Way along with an information technology committee established the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America website at myasthenia. org.

Through the years Stan served on MFGA board of directors and committees and continued to inspire and support all of us.

Stan was a humble gracious person. He earned his angel wings. May he rest in peace.

From Phyllis Davis, a Prodigy mailing list teenager now a grateful adult:

Stanley Way made a tremendous impact on my life at a very early age. It was 1995 and I was 13 to be exact. With my new MG diagnosis, my mom went into research mode to learn as much as she could to not only help keep me out of the ICU, but to help her navigate our new normal. The problem was that in 1995, we didn’t have access to the information we have today – the internet was at its infancy and cellphones didn’t exist. In small town Indiana we only had our local library’s Dewey Decimal System that had everything from A to Z, but no MG.

To try to learn more, my mom signed up for a painfully slow AOL dial-up internet service to see if this new World Wide Web held the secrets. I’ll never forget the night she found the community Stanley created the Myasthenia Gravis Prodigy chat room. It was a Saturday night and there was a live online chat. She immediately yelled at me to “Come see this. There are all these people with MG.” Even at 13, I could see in my mom an instant sense of relief that she wasn’t alone.

She found a break in the chat and started to type “Hi, my name is Jane. My 13-year-old daughter has MG and I’m looking for information on what to expect.” Almost immediately, Stanley Way welcomed my mom to the group. Stanley Way was a natural teacher, caregiver and friend, so of course he privately messaged her his number, email address, words of advice, and heartfelt offer to always be there for support.

From that night on, my mom became a regular on the Prodigy listserv and chat. She would print chats and articles from MGLinks and highlight items to discuss with my neurologist. We met happy and thriving adults that were diagnosed when they were children (like Donna Whittaker) who helped us see a rainbow in the middle of a rainstorm. When we got home from appointments or I was in the hospital, my mom would seek advice from the myasthenia pros (as she would call them). The Prodigy Listserv and MGLinks were her lifeline, sanity check, and comforting hug.

I’m not sure if it was my mom or my “sad story”, but overtime Stanley and my mom started to become friends. He would call her to check-in, call when I was in the hospital to see what he could do, sent cards and gifts, and would connect us to others. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to meet Donna and many others that guided my mom through all the new meds, talked her through the pros/cons of a thymectomy, and would show support and empathy during the rollercoasters of this disease.

I wish I was lucky enough to have met Stanely Way to thank him. I don’t think he will ever understand how he changed so many lives by bridging barriers and empowering people in a time where information was scarce. From my personal side, he helped a little farmgirl and her mom get through a very tough start to my long journey with Myasthenia Gravis. That Dewey Decimal System may never include MG, but thanks to Stanley, this community includes me.

From Monica Pires, who is Portuguese and a Myasthenia Gravis patient:

Stan helped change the way I looked at life with Myasthenia. I was no longer alone. I became part of a community. Let me tell you how it all started.

An MG-friend sent me a magazine that mentioned an MG mailing list. It was owned by a myasthenic called Stanley Way. So, I immediately subscribed to it. There, no question was too silly. All answers were supportive.
I didn't waste any time. I jumped right in.

After a while, Stan asked me if I would like to be the contact person for new members from outside the States. My job would be to send welcome emails and answer questions regarding the mailing list. I said yes!
Whenever I had any doubts, Stan was always a discreet and reassuring presence while, at the same time, allowing me to add my personal touch to this role.

But the mailing list was just the beginning.

MGnet followed next. And what a wonderful adventure it became.

Stan was at the forefront of this extraordinary new idea - to create an online Chapter of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA). This Chapter would welcome people from all over the world. I was asked if I would like to serve on the Board of Directors. And I said yes!

Stan, Donna, Irv, Dale, Betty, Avi, Kelly, Elaine, Old Jack, Amy, and many more, became the building blocks of this remarkable project.

MGnet grew quickly. We hosted support meetings, different topics each week, and several guest speakers.
Stan prompted us to believe and to make it happen.

Then came the annual MGFA meetings. MGnet was there. The talks were broadcast online and viewed by people all over the world. I still remember the thrill of putting a face to a name when MGers waved hello in front of the camera. It was extraordinary.
This is Stan's remarkable legacy to all of us. Creating platforms to educate people about Myasthenia, organizing opportunities for support, and building a strong sense of community.

Stan continues to inspire my steps online.

When I was asked to first be a moderator and then one of the administrators of the online group for Portuguese-speaking myasthenics from all over the world, I said yes!

Dear Stan, I still say yes because of your generosity so many years ago! Thank you.

MGnet Chapter of Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America Board of Directors:

MGnet Chapter of Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America Board of Directors

Dale Wurtenberger, Stanley Way, Carol Kennedy,
Donna Whittaker, Kelly Carson, MGFA Executive Director,
Irv Beck, Tim Scott, Monica Pires (not present)
From the USA and Canada at a MGFA meeting


A bunch of us took Dad out to dinner for his 80th birthday on April 28, 2018. The following mayhem ensued.


These are the two photo boards that were on display at Dad's visitation (or viewing) and post-funeral reception. The first has photos from his early years through graduation from Penn State and Carnegie Mellon. The second has photos from his marriage onward.

 

Board 1: Birth thru college
Board 2: Married thru present

 


Remembering Doug (RIP)

How we wanted him to be:

The Doug we wanted

How he actually was:

The Doug we knew

 

Updated Friday, August 25, 2023