At 87, Joel Stumph has given more than 41 gallons of his blood to Cascade Regional Blood Services – a stunning number that had little to do with how impressive the man is.
The subject of today’s column, Stumph lives in the Tacoma home he helped build in 1961, and one of the first orders of business then was crafting a full basement. A man needs a workshop.
Stumph has raised children, doted on grandchildren, lost a wife and fallen in love with domestic partner Connie over the years. He even finds time each day after lunch to provide a lap for Sunny, the orange cat who likes to nap about then.
A Telephone & Telegraph lineman for 25 years, a supervisor for another 18, Stumph is a long drink of water who uses his hands and mind to create beautiful canes and walking sticks, bird houses, wine bottles filled with holiday lights and most everything else you can do with wood.
And he gives them all away.
Stumph, who has had both knees replaced, walks with one of his canes or walking sticks – and carries extras in his car trunk. Why?
“If he sees someone walking across the parking lot he thinks could use one, he stops them and says, ‘You may need this more than I do!’ and gives them the one he’s using,” Connie Scusselle said.
Show up at his home empty-handed, leave with bags full of gifts. Spend more than 20 minutes, Stumph will proudly show off a family photo, carefully pointing out which face belongs with another. Drop by around lunch, Connie will fill you with soup.
And Stumph loves to joke. He’ll clean it up if Connie is there, maybe get just a bit salty if she’s not. When I left a coat there last week, he telephoned me later.
“I put it on the front door knob with a sign, ‘Best offer,'” Stumph said.
If he talks about giving blood, it’s usually in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.
“The thing is, one pint can help so many people. A teaspoon might help save a baby’s life,” Stumph said. “A friend told me he didn’t give blood because he was afraid of needles. I told him, ‘If your child needed something, you’d give your life for them. You’re going to tell me you might let a child die because you’re afraid of needles?’”