Albert Roy Stemler, born March 2, 1944, died February 12, 1960
It is sad to think that if my brother Roy would have lived, he would be a senior citizen, and probably on Social Security.
During Roy’s childhood, a lot of time was spent playing out in the sandy orchards, pretending to hunt rabbits with home made archery sets, digging forts in the sand bank at the back of our farm, and playing kick the can with the next door kids.
There was no T.V. in our house, only one radio, but plenty of musical instruments with which to amuse ourselves.
With my mother’s illness and many hospital stays Roy was left to his own devices and sometimes got into trouble. A humorous episode was when he took our old Model A Ford coupe, drove it up the sand bank and tipped it over. I hastily cranked up the McCormack -Deering tractor, hitched up the chain to the coupe and righted it. We got it back into the garage before our stern papa came home from work.
Roy’s best social occasion at home was a wild game of Monopoly with his pals where the object was not to become real estate tycoons, but to successfully pilfer the other fellow’s money. They also enjoyed some homemade wine during these wild games.
Roy got to camp out in the neighbor’s orchard with his buddies, and in season crept out to snitch the cherries on another orchard.
One of the most troublesome episodes was when Roy and others broke into the wealthy store owners’ house and stole a wristwatch and firecrackers. They were pinpointed by the law when they could not forebear to wait until the Fourth of July to set off the fireworks. Instead of being charged and sent to “juvie” in disgrace, my older brother Lee came to the rescue with restitution.
Roy was a compassionate person, and helped out on a 4-H trip with a little girl who needed a piggy back ride on a rough trail. Her family has remembered this incident for over 40 years.
After my mother died in 1955, family life sort of deterioated and with me busy trying to run the household, make good grades and figure out my future, Roy was left to drift with no one to comfort him or see that he did his homework. After I got married and left, and before papa married Marcelle, Roy spent some lonely and depressed days. He would come home to an empty house becasue his papa was working the evening shift at the Port Chicago Naval base.
Roy also got a lot quieter and exhibited signs of depression. One nice memory in those two years after I left home was Roy’s coming to visit me in oakland in 1958. We rented a little paddle boat on Lake Merritt, went into the Fairyland children’s zoo, and fed the nasty ducks at the edge of the lake. He aspired to become an Airforce pilot at that time, but probably knew he did not have the grades or determination to reach that goal.
After Marcelle came into the picture, life improved for Roy, with good French cooking and a new T.V. set.
Despite the good food and improvement of the home life, Roy developed luekemia. One of my mother’s closest friends claimed that all those hamburgers and bean dishes was what caused the disease, and others say he died of a broken heart.
Years later I got back a letter from my cousin, who was going through her mom’s papers and found a letter from my mom describing what a good baby Roy was. It made me feel like I had been a problem child, as he was described as being so placid and easy to care for. Regardless, as an adult one must have a certain determination or “fire in the belly’ to survive the many pitfalls of simply being alive, and sadly Roy had neither.