Yesterday, after lunch, I got some very sad news that Stoner had passed away that morning. The last couple of years, he'd had some medical issues and I guess they got the better of him.
I didn't know Stoner very well. My interactions with him were limited to when he'd come to my school to do some maintenance work or in the summers when I, along with other teachers, work in our district's maintenance department doing odd jobs, landscaping the schools' yards, painting and so on. Through our interactions, which were very fraternal in that there was ribbing, joking and plenty of 'locker room' talk, I discovered that Stoner had been to The Philippines when he was in the navy. We talked about the old US Navy base at Subic Bay, a place I have never visited. We even joked, with no disrespect and dishonour to my parents, that Stoner was my real father. You see, I'm Filipino-American and I don't look Filipino, or Asian even, right off the bat. When people look at me, it's always with hesitation and uncertainty as to what I am. Funnily, I get it more from other Asians. Anyway, because of that, Stoner and I had that joke.
Although I didn't get to him very well, I'm really glad I got to know him at all. You see, two things that I noticed immediately with Stoner was that he was a genuine person - the kind of guy that would wear his heart out on his sleeve - and that he was genuinely happy. I don't recall a time when he wasn't smiling and his smile was infectious. Even through the pain of his surgeries and medical conditions, Stoner would be grinning from ear to ear. He talked openly about everything - his thoughts on his job, his declining health, the excesses he's had in life - and he did so, from where I stood, without a hint of regret and with total acceptance of how he'd lived his life and who he was. The song My Way comes to mind and, in fact, I believe I've heard him belt out a line or two during our work hours.
It's funny how people who we interact with in limited doses make an impact on our lives. It's a case of quality over quantity, I suppose. Well, Stoner did have an impact on my life. What that impact is going to result in, I don't know. What I do know is that, in my own way, I will miss him. I was sad when I got the text from one of my teacher friends, who also works on the maintenance summer crew, that Stoner had died. I'm still sad. I am smiling, however, because I know that whatever better place Stoner's in he's smiling too.