Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: January 2001 Volume 39 Number 1, Pages 34–36

Notes and Comments

Page 34

County Honors Paoli Fireman

Captain Fred DiAntonio of the Paoli Fire Company was honored on October 10, 2000 by the county commissioners when he was presented with a Medal of Valor Award in memory of William H. "Pop" Winters, long-time county firefighter and fire marshal. The annual memorial award was inau­gurated three years ago, and is given to those "who have gone above the line of duty." The award ties into National Fire Prevention Week held each year in October to raise public consciousness about the need for fire prevention and safety. Captain DiAntonio was honored for saving a mother and daughter from raging flood waters on LeBoutillier Road during Hurricane Floyd in September of 1999.

Passing of Long-time Local Resident Noted

This past summer the Upper Main Line lost a citizen known to almost everyone because he owned the Staats Oil Heating Company, and because of his many local real estate dealings. That citizen was Clarence Stevenson Staats Jr., who died at ManorCare in Devon on June 7, 2000 at the age of 95.

Many considered Clarence to be a "character." A better description of him was given by a nephew who said he was "utterly original." At his

Page 35

memorial service at Great Valley Presbyterian Church, his grandson, John Steinberg, described this utter originality much to the amusement of those in attendance. John said his grandfather was also a "conundrum." He knew his grandfather well. The following are John's remarks:

"Most of our extended family heard about my grandfather Clarence's death through an e-mail. It started in France, then to Canada, from whence the news went to all corners of the country and the globe. In contrast, back in 1905, the news of the birth of "the kid" (as his mother called him until he had kids of his own) probably traveled between neighbors over fence posts. Maybe the doctor who delivered him told a few people as he rode back in his horse-drawn buggy to Berwyn.

"In that e-mail, Cousin Kendall had a perfect description of Clarence: he called him "utterly original." Coming from Kendall, that is quite a compli­ment. When I was a young child spending summers in Malvern, I did not think that utterly original was such a compliment. It is only as I have gotten older that I have come to appreciate, though not to understand, Clarence's originality.

"To a young child trying to make sense of the world, Clarence seemed as puzzling as the Sphinx:

"Clarence lived in the biggest house I had ever seen. It had an attic and a basement and two floors in between. Yet, Clarence worked in an office not much bigger than a closet in the back of his old Staats Oil.

"He would go to work in a coat and tie. Yet, every time I ever went with him, we usually found ourselves walking through thickets and brush to put up a sign or tear down some old structure.

"Finally, his car was always a blue Chevrolet sedan, the key to which could always be found above the driver's side sun visor. Yet, when you opened up the trunk you were confronted with enough tools to fill a pickup truck.

"As I began to get older and travel more with my grandfather, I realized that these contradictions were not just on the surface, not just outward appearances. They ran deep.

"Clarence would talk to just about anyone. Grandmother Jane used to say that he would talk to a lamppost. Yet, he always mumbled.

"He loved to tell stories any chance that he got. Yet, he would usually just give you nouns and a verb here or there, so that if you did not know the story, you could not get it from his telling.

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"Finally, he took his religion very seriously. At the bottom of his business stationery it read: "Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Yet, he always fell asleep during services. That was not necessarily a bad thing, since it kept him from sneezing.

"As a young man, I finally realized that my grandfather was different.

"Clarence traveled all over the world. Yet, he was born, lived and died all within a few miles.

"He has traveled to all the great cities of the world. Yet, he has never lived in a city.

"Finally, he had a great appreciation for foods and cultures from around the world, yet I think he took most of his meals out at Twaddell's or the Pancake House.

"These are the conundrums of Clarence.

"The final conundrum is that you'd think that he would have worked himself to death, yet he lived to 95.

"So what are we to make of his life? There may be many things that drove him to these opposite ends, but we can be sure that the opinion of others rarely concerned him.

"In the end, I think the only true understanding of Clarence we can have -­the only true synthesis of these contradictions -- must arise out of an appreciation for his will. These contradictions emanated from the force of Clarence's will to make the world into the place he thought it should be. Clarence refused to be distracted by the way the world actually was. He was only concerned with the way the world ought to be.

"His will was stronger than reality. His will was as oppressive as it was nurturing. His will was rigid and embarrassing, as it was glorious and enlight­ening. He had ideas. He acted on his ideas. He made his ideas reality. The conundrums that so confused me as a boy, and I am sure confused many of you, are simply the outward face of someone acting on what they believe.

"The conundrums of Clarence were not conundrums to Clarence. They only seem odd to us."

Yes, he was a conundrum but he was also a very nice man. We shall all miss him.

[We thank Mary Ives for bringing John Steinberg's remarks to our attention.]


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