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Shaw: Making friends with a valued reader

Jim Shaw, left, and reader Stan LaBounty1 / 2
Jim Shaw2 / 2

In the four and a half years I have had the honor of writing this column, I have had the pleasure of receiving thousands of comments from readers on what I have written. Most of those thoughts come from people I have never met. One of those people, Stan LaBounty of Fargo, has sent me an email after every one of my columns. His comments are consistently passionate, sincere, honest and funny.

So, I needed to meet this mystery man, and took him out for lunch. Stan is 83 and retired. He was raised on a farm in Stirum, N.D. Stirum has a population of about 135 and is in southeastern North Dakota. He grew up during the Great Depression and always did his chores, such as feeding the livestock before school.

Stan graduated from Stirum High School (the school has since closed). He was one of six students in his graduating class. In high school, he acted in the school play and was a star athlete. He was the best pitcher on the baseball team. In fact, he was the only pitcher. So, he pitched every inning of every game. He was a forward on the basketball team and a great shooter. In a game against arch-rival Gwinner, he made 10 free throws in a row. Unfortunately, he missed the next one, and they lost the game.

“It still bothers me that I missed that free throw,” Stan said. “I don’t like to fail.”

After school, Stan went to work on an assembly line for General Motors in Illinois. Then, he worked at other factories, but with an 80 cent an hour salary he couldn’t afford the rent. Thus, he joined the Marines for three years.

“It was great to be in the Marines,” Stan said. “I loved serving my country.”

Stan served in Okinawa, the Philippines and Japan. He was struck by the poverty he witnessed in those countries and it made a lifelong impact on him.

“It was an eye-opener to see all the poverty. I couldn’t believe so many poor people could be living such tough lives in the jungle,” he said.

After becoming a barber, Stan returned to the family farm for about 25 years.

“I always liked the farm,” Stan said. “That’s still where my heart is.”

After that, Stan bought old cars and antiques and restored them. He’s been married to his wife, Verna, for 56 years. They have two children and seven grandchildren, including a granddaughter he loves to watch play volleyball for Fargo North High. He is an avid Minnesota Vikings fan, and stays with them despite the many heartbreaking disappointments. Stan also reads the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead every day.

“I want to be informed,” Stan said. “I need to know what’s going on.”

He will get together with his family for Christmas, where the highlight is playing bingo. So, to my new friend Stan, Merry Christmas!