William Leucine Stark, Jr.

William Warren Stark was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 19 December 1927, the eldest of four sons born to William Scott Stark and Florence Irene Spencer (Howard Paul, Eugene Elmer, and Clifford Charles arrived later). During his boyhood years, he lived with his parents in Croydon, PA. The Depression years were hard ones for the family, and he has recounted stories of how when they lacked shoes they would make boots out of old inner tubes. His father had been in the Navy during World War I, and had subsequently worked on merchant ships as an oiler and the like, but during the Depression he apparently worked various odd jobs, including carpentry, and was often unemployed.

From information in some diaries that his mother kept at irregular intervals, it seems that much of young ``Billie's'' time was devoted to helping his father with various construction tasks at home, and to his studies. At one point he had a paper route, but on 7 November 1942 a doctor told him he had a heart murmur and that he had to give up all heavy exercise. He was unfortunately burdened by this piece of misinformation until 1945, when he passed his physical examination before entering the Merchant Marine Academy. Another medical problem was that he had been born with an abnormally short muscle or tendon on one side of his neck, which caused his head to cant to one side. Correcting this condition ultimately required an operation and a 17 day hospital stay, which the family was unable to afford until January 30, 1941. Billie wore his first long pants on 15 September 1941.

Young Bill graduated valedictorian of the class of 1945 at Bensalem Township High School, but had a terrible fight with his mother because he didn't want her to come and see him receive the various awards and certificates he earned. Shortly after this incident his mother wrote in her diary, ``I hope getting out in the world on his own changes him for the better as his outlook on life is slightly warped.'' After graduation, he was accepted to the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps. At about this time his name was changed to William Leucine Stark, Jr., and his father's to William Leucine Stark, Sr. He attended the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York and graduated with the B.S. degree on June 15, 1949, sixth in a class of 225. From 1949 to 1956 he was employed by various steamship companies in the capacities of Third, Second, and Chief Officer. His Master's License was issued in Philadelphia on 7 November 1952. From 1956 to 1959 he was Principal and Instructor at the Merchant Marine School, Seamen's Church Institute, New York, NY. While attending Teacher's College, Columbia University during this period, he met Joan Carol Scism, whom he married in Nunda, NY on June 28, 1958.

In 1959 he received the M.A. degree in Mathematics Education from Columbia. He then began an eighteen-year teaching career during which he held positions as a sixth grade teacher in Mahopac, NY, a Mathematics teacher at Huntington High School, Huntington, NY, an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Ulster County Community College, Stone Ridge, NY, an Instructor at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies near Baltimore, MD, and as a member of the faculty of the US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY. Although he performed his work capably, he apparently had trouble getting along with persons in positions of authority, and usually after a a few years in a particular job it would become necessary for him to move on. To be assured of a steady flow of food to the mouths of four hungry children, Joan Stark began to take on part-time employment at home. Later, she went back to graduate school and earned the Ed.D. degree, at which point the location of the family homestead followed her career path rather than his. This, and the fact that ultimately she began to make more money than he, undoubtedly contributed to strife at home.

Four children were born to Bill and Joan: Eugene William, Susan Elizabeth, Linda Anne, and Ellen Scism. He encouraged all his children to high achievement, in sports as well as in school. He was an especially avid supporter of the gymnastics activities in which all his daughters participated at some point. He was a good tennis player, but was unsuccessful at making an adequate partner out of his son. Although not musical himself, he seemed to enjoy very much relaxing on a soft carpet within earshot when one of his children was struggling to practice their piano lesson. He liked outdoor activities, and would take whichever of the children he could get to go along on outings to go skiing, sledding, or exploring in the woods. In the summertime, he enjoyed gardening, and knew how to grow very large tomato plants. Part of the secret was to put the plants in very early in the spring, and it was the job of the children to cover the plants in the evening with little newspaper hats to keep out the frost. With 50 or 75 six-foot high tomato plants in the back yard, several bushels of tomatoes a day could be harvested at the height of the summer. The children got to peddle the excess tomatoes to the neighbors.

When Joan accepted a faculty post at Syracuse University in 1974, Bill continued to work at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies near Baltimore. To be with the family on weekends, he would commute by car, leaving for Syracuse on Friday afternoons and returning to Baltimore very early Monday mornings, with very little sleep. He continued in the same fashion when he moved from Baltimore and took a position at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island. If anyone expressed concern that he might fall asleep on one of his early morning trips, he would laugh it off, saying that this couldn't happen because whenever he started to run off the road, the little stones from the shoulder pinging the underside of his car would wake him up.

William Leucine Stark, Jr. died suddenly of a heart attack on March 9, 1978, in Baltimore, MD, while attending a school to train him to operate liquified natural gas tankers. He is survived by his wife and children. Events throughout both his personal and professional life leave one with the impression of a man frustrated in the complete fulfillment of many of his life's goals by deep internal conflicts arising outside his control. The true nature of his struggle can at best be guessed, since only on rare occasions did he allow others to glimpse much of his inner self. It seems clear, though, that the main goal of the latter half of his life was to raise his children to adulthood and a level of achievement in life that, for one reason or another, had been inaccessible to him. He strove for this goal to the limit of his abilities, and it is unfortunate that his death at such an early age deprived him of the satisfaction of seeing his efforts come to fruition.