More Stories about Stan Suddarth


More Stories about Stan Suddarth

The structural building components industry mourns the loss of Dr. Stan Suddarth, Ph.D., P.E. Most of those in the industry who knew him, knew of his great intellect and appreciated his straight-forward communication style.  Below are two stories from Stan’s life, as recalled by his son, Steve, that may shed additional light on him as a man. Please feel free to use the comment section below to share any memories you may have of Stan for our readers to enjoy.

Coming Home from World War II

The United States military embarked on efforts to develop military applications for RADAR (which stood for “Radio Detection and Ranging”) in the early 1930s, and one of the first fully operational military systems was installed on the USS California, which was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Within this fledgling branch of military reconnaissance, a young Stan Suddarth began his military career during operations in the Pacific. He showed an early aptitude to this new technology, and rose to the rank of Captain by the end of the war.

On their way home from the Pacific, Stan’s troop ship made a brief stop while navigating the Panama Canal. His company of radar specialists had been given instructions to “deep six,” or dump, all of their equipment overboard during their voyage home. Developers of the equipment, RCA for example, didn’t want this highly advanced military technology competing with the products they were manufacturing for domestic uses.

Apparently, the ship’s captain made it known that if some of the equipment didn’t make it over the side, and accidentally found its way into someone’s duffle bag, he wouldn’t know anything about it. Perhaps taking too much advantage of the situation, Stan’s company ended up storing the equipment they kept in a pick-up truck in the ship’s hold.

During the stop in Panama City, Stan and another member of the company drove the truck into the city, looking for a place to temporarily store the equipment until they could come back and retrieve it. Unfortunately, the ship received early orders to leave, and left port before Stan returned. Suddenly, he was stranded in Panama, with a stolen U.S. military vehicle, full of stolen U.S. military equipment that had reportedly been destroyed.

Stan had no other choice, but to drive the truck back through several Central American countries, the entire length of Mexico, and the U.S. border crossing into Texas (in 1945). From there, Stan stashed the truck and he took a train back to their home base in Norfolk, Virginia. Needless to say, they arrived much later than the rest of their company.

For years, Stan’s family wondered whether the story was true, it seemed somewhat fantastical. But after his death, his son, Steve, found a copy of a letter Captain Suddarth had written to his superior officers, explaining why he and a fellow member of the troop had accidentally been left behind in Panama City, how several attempts to reach the ship before it left Panama had failed, and how they had eventually been forced to find other means to return to the states and take a train back to Norfolk.

The letter never mentions the pick-up truck, nor the stolen equipment, but one could surmise those were details best left off the official report!

Mischief in the Halls of Academia

Stan’s best friends were the people he worked with. As some in the structural components industry can attest, Stan was particularly close with Don Percival, a Professor at the University of Illinois who did considerable work in the realm of the structural properties of lumber and lumber grading.  The two of them traveled together often, giving presentations to industry groups across the country.  Their families also spend a lot of time together while vacationing.

It was known that Percival had quite a sense of humor, and thoroughly enjoyed gags and practical jokes. While on a family vacation, the Suddarth family stopped at a Stuckey’s for lunch, and in the gift store Stan found a cheap plastic creamer container in the shape of a cow.  Stan bought it, wrapped it up in very expensive wrapping, and shipped it to the Percival’s as a Christmas gift.

Don, not be outdone, proceeded to display the gift in many prominent places throughout his home and sent pictures of it back to Stan to thank him.  The next Christmas, the Suddarth's received the gift back, but this time it was painted gold.  Back and forth the little plastic creamer went each Christmas, every year with a slight enhancement.

At some point Don’s and Stan’s laboratory colleagues got in on the fun and began to build elaborate, yet utterly useless, items they would send back and forth to each other during the holidays.  Each year they would add to the item they received the previous year and send it back. All this, from a cheap piece of plastic shaped like a cow.

FULL ARTICLE: Remembering Stan Suddarth: A Peerless Industry Standard