Larry LaRue

Joel Stumph gave blood, walking sticks and love

Came back from vacation today to learn of the loss of a friend, Joel Stumph, who lived a long life and filled it with love and charity.

Not the kind of charity where you give $25 a year to the organization of your choice.

That kind of giving is easy. Stumph gave of himself, often literally.

Beginning in 1954, when he donated blood for the wife of a co-worker, Stumph became a blood donor like no one in Pierce County history. More than 42 gallons in all.

When I wrote a column on Stumph and his wife, Connie, back in March 2013, Stumph was 87. Cascade Regional Blood Services director Dan Schmitt was in awe of what Stumph had accomplished in those years.

“You can only give blood every 56 days,” Schmitt said. “If Joel had given every time he was allowed — each 56 days — it would have taken him 55 ½ years to donate 41-plus gallons of blood.”

Stumph lived in a Tacoma house he built with a full basement in 1961. He and his first wife raised four children there. When she died, he met, courted and married Connie.

No visitor to their home could leave empty handed.

Connie made soup, and if you wouldn’t sit and enjoy a bowl with them and their orange cat, Sunny, she’d give you frozen soup to take home.

In that basement, Stumph kept a working woodshop. He specialized in birdhouses and walking sticks, and never drove anywhere without a half dozen sticks in his trunk.

If he saw someone limping through a parking lot, Stumph would pop the trunk and hand out one of his polished-wood sticks.

Over the last year, Stumph had battled cancer on his own terms. When Connie and the family got him a wheelchair, he wouldn’t use it.

“Joel said he wasn’t an old man and could get by without it,” Connie said. “He’d use his own sticks to walk.”

On Dec. 23, Stumph went to bed with his wife and did not wake up. Every passing should be so easy.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 10) in the chapel at Mountain View Memorial Park in Steilacoom.

If you’ve ever needed and gotten blood in Pierce County, you might want to consider being there and saying a last “thank you” to Joel Stumph. According to Schmitt, no one has ever given more than Joel.

Joel loved his children, both his wives, all visitors and that orange cat, who would nap on his lap each day after lunch.

“If I’m not in my chair, he starts to howl,” Stumph told me. “So I always try to be in the chair every afternoon around 1 o’clock. A lap isn’t too much to give.”

For Stumph, nothing he had was too much to give. Especially love.