A Prosperous Life: Edward Earl Stufflebean

Prosperous: successful in material terms flourishing economically or bringing wealth and success

The traditional definition of prosperity relates to financial well-being. However, many will agree that wealth and success aren’t uniquely linked to money. One can prosper in terms of wealth of family and friends, too.

Edward Earl Stufflebean was my father-in-law and he was a prosperous man, not in terms of financial gain (although he worked hard and retired comfortably), but in terms of familial love and friendships. I purposely delayed this 52 Ancestors post until May 1 because today is the 13th anniversary of his death.

Edward Earl Stufflebean was born on 6 June 1917 in Norman, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, the first of two children born to Earl Marcus Stufflebean and Pearl Lillian Brasher.

Pearl&Ed1918
Pearl & Ed, c1918

Sister Wanda Lucille, born on 16 April 1920 in Noble, Cleveland County, Oklahoma completed the family.

Ed&Wanda1930s
Ed & Wanda, c1935

Oklahoma was a young, but rapidly growing state when Ed was born. Both the Stufflebeans and the Brashers had migrated from Texas to Oklahoma about the time it became a state in 1907.  Earl Stufflebean worked as a clerk in the family store in Norman. Work was steady until the Depression. Oklahoma was doubly hit because of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. The Stufflebean store had closed and work was scarce. Earl wasn’t able to find a job, but luckily, Pearl found a job as a cook at one of the sororities at the University of Oklahoma, which is in Norman.

The family circumstances changed greatly with the onset of the Depression and it was something Ed never forgot. He was only 12 years old when the stock market crashed and, suddenly, the family had to worry about where the next meal was coming from. Years of drought on the Great Plains helped bring on the dust storms that plagued Oklahoma.

Here is the Stufflebean home in Noble where Ed was born:

EdHouseHeWasBornIn
Born in Noble, OK in This House

The area was still quite rural and while the house wasn’t buried by dust like the abandoned farm in the photo, dust could certainly wreak havoc in the neighborhood.

The family didn’t starve, but meals offered slim pickings and Ed used to talk about the times he went hungry. Three square meals a day was always the top item on his list in his later life and it stemmed from the hard times he lived through as a teenager. Luckily, they did not lose their home, as many did, but times were rough. Monetary prosperity wasn’t something most people could claim.

Ed didn’t finish high school. He made it through three years and then had to try to find work. He considered himself very lucky when he was able to enlist in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Cavalry at Fort Bliss, Texas.

EdArmyPortrait
You’re in the Army Now!

EdArmyWanda&Pearl
Wanda, Ed and Pearl

When his enlistment period was up, he tried to re-enlist, but the U.S. wasn’t yet in World War II and, much to his chagrin, even the Army was cutting back during the Depression.

EdNoReEnlistment
No Openings in the Army!

Ed scrambled, looking for work, and was hired on as a deliveryman for the Mistletoe Express in Anadarko.

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Ed & Ruby in front of the Mistletoe Express Delivery Truck

That is where he met Ruby Jewel Sturgell, who became his wife on 24 April 1938.

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Ruby Jewel Sturgell, c1936

They married in Anadarko, but soon moved back to Norman. Ed and Ruby welcomed their first child,  a little girl, Patricia Ann, born in 1939. She was nicknamed “Patsey” when she was small.

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Patsy, c1942

The worst of the Depression was over, but jobs were still scarce. Ed got a job working as an attendant at the State Hospital in McAlester, Oklahoma, but he was looking for something to better be able to support his young family. He applied for jobs in Wichita, Kansas and Nebraska, to no avail.

EdWichitaJob
Wichita Reply

He contacted his Uncle Aulton, who was living in New York, asking for help getting a job, but Aulton wrote and said it was even harder to find work there than back in Oklahoma.

EdJObHelpAultonHorne
Reply from Uncle Aulton

By 1940, he was able to find a job right in Norman, working for a furniture manufacturer.

Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. The war time economy picked up; Ed and Ruby decided that the time might be right to make a move to the Golden State of California. Ed traveled west first, found a job at a Safeway supermarket in the Los Angeles area and then sent for Ruby and Patsy.

Ed and Ruby rented a small home in Compton, California from Mr. and Mrs. Murrell. There are a number of family photos of them with their landlords and little Patsy. The Murrells seemed to be more like family. The Stufflebeans were beginning to see prosperity, both economic and familial.

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Mr. Murrell, center back and Mrs. Murrell, front right
Pearl & Earl Stufflebean, left, Ruby & Ed (partly hidden) with Patsy

Ed only worked for Safeway for about a year:

EdStufflebeanSafewayBadge
California Safeway Job, 1941

Next, he was hired on for a job that he loved, a job that became his career for the rest of his work life. He worked as an instrument repairman at the Shell Oil Refinery in Wilmington, California.

EdRidingAround theRefinery
Ed, Riding Around the Refinery

In 1979, he retired from Shell with an incredible work record. In 38 years of service, he never took a sick day and only missed a day of work when Ruby went into labor with son, David.

The years between 1941 and 1979 were very happy years for the family. Ironically, as much as Ed wanted to remain in the Army a few years before, he was exempted from military service during World War II because of his job at the refinery. He was a fabulous handyman and oil was vital to the war effort. His skills at repairing the refinery equipment kept him at home.

After the war, sons Phillip and David were born. Ed worked hard to support his wife and children.

EdDave&Phil1956
Ed, David and Phillip, c1957

He often took on a second job on the weekends or even a third part-time job to bring in more money. For years, he delivered furniture from a local store.

In spite of long work hours, his family has many memories of the times they spent together. On summer evenings growing up, Ed and the boys, along with other neighborhood kids,  would head down the street to the local elementary school, where he would pitch balls in the baseball games. There were family barbecues, picnics and get-togethers with other relatives.

SturgellStufflebeanSummer
Family Get-Together, c1969

Ed isn’t in tons of family get-together pictures because he was often the family photographer! Unlike today where we often barely know our neighbors, Ed and Ruby were good friends with other families on their street.

The kids remember traveling back to Oklahoma every other summer to visit the Stufflebean relatives. They would get up in the middle of the night to leave the house and cross the hot desert (in the car with no air conditioning), driving through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and into Oklahoma. One year, Ed decided to take a bit of a detour and the family visited Mesa Verde National Park.

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Dave, thrilled to be in Mesa Verde National Park, 1963

In the off years when they didn’t vacation in Oklahoma, the relatives came to California and visited with them.

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Sister Wanda’s family, visiting late 1960’s
Jess, Wanda and Mark Burkett, left, mother Pearl center, Stacey, Phil and Norma center left and wife Ruby, far left

Family was always important to Ed. They always came first in his life.

Ed also believed in taking lots of photographs of family on all occasions. He even made sure to have extra prints mad to share with everyone. In my role as the family historian, that was a fabulous habit for him to have. We have inherited literally thousands of pictures spanning a century. I have to admit though, that it was quite a job sifting out all the duplicate, triplicate and sometimes even quadruplicate photos as I prepared everything for my recent scanning project!

He also made sure that there were some nice portrait photos taken through the years. Here he is with Ruby, c1990.

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Ed & Ruby

Years went by and the kids grew up and had their own families. If help was needed around the house, Ed would always come by to see what he could do. He taught the kids how to do car repairs and to use power tools. They built projects together. Eventually, Ed and Ruby had three grandchildren – two grandsons and a granddaughter – and they often babysat. He was happiest at home with his family.

Dennis was the first grandchild, followed by granddaughter Stacey a few years later. Michael was the youngest.

Stacey&Dennis

Ed&Michael50thAnny
Dennis & Stacey above, Ed & Michael below

When Ed retired from Shell in 1979, he and Ruby sold their home in Long Beach and moved to Hemet, California. Many other Shell retirees had moved there, too, so Ed was able to keep in touch with his old work buddies. They made lots of new friends and had a busy social life.

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Ed & Ruby in Hemet

Ed had enjoyed prosperity with friends and family for many years. His work ethic had allowed him to save small amounts of money over time so that in retirement, he enjoyed financial prosperity, too. He and Ruby saw some of the world by sea and by air, vacationing with friends and relatives in places ranging from Germany to Hawaii. Although he enjoyed those vacations, he was always happiest when he got back home again.

EdRubyCruise1980s
Ship ahoy!

Ed enjoyed two decades of retired life. He and Ruby continued to always been there for family and friends. He was well loved by all.

The last couple of years of his life were difficult, as his health declined significantly and he passed away on 1 May 2002, a month before his 85th birthday.

Edward Earl Stufflebean was a very prosperous man.

In Loving Memory
6 June 1917 – 1 May 2002

We miss you! Love, Your Family

One thought on “A Prosperous Life: Edward Earl Stufflebean”

  1. Our daughter was married on the USS Norway in July 1994. Any chance that was the time your parents-in-law were on the ship?

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