August 15, 1997
Ernie Stoops was a friend of mine and a co-worker for a good many years when both of us were employed at The Perry Daily Journal. More recently we have been across-the-street neighbors up here on the north side of town since about the time we retired, but the truth is we did not see much of each other except in the summertime when we happened to be in our yards at the same time. Still, I knew he was over there if I ever needed something he could provide, and I hope he sensed the same thing about me.
Ernie and I were about the same age. We both served in the Army during World War II, he in Europe and I in the Pacific. We both shared a love for newspapering; he partially grew up in the Hobart News and Democrat offices and I spent a lot of time as a mere youth trying to get the hang of things at The Journal. Ernie was mechanically inclined so he took naturally to intricacies of the newspaper's back shop, while I concentrated on what they used to call "the front end," or the news department.
Ernie came here a few years after World War II. He was hired by Milo Watson to work in The Journal print shop, primarily as the crap machine operator. That is a perfectly good term traditionally used to describe the person who runs the machine that produces the large type used in headlines and in advertising matter. Few shops have hot type machines any more so computers now spew out types of all sizes, and I doubt that there are many "crap machine operators" still active. It was never a term of derision. He was an artist when it came to selecting just the right size and type font to present the text in an appropriate way for ads that offered lingerie, or soap flakes, or headache remedies, or what have you.
His mechanical skill came in handy for coaxing type from one of those oversized and often balky Linotype machines. He became shop foreman at the PDJ and he was often the one Milo turned to for advice on getting another day's run from the ancient flatbed Goss press before the offset process was adopted in more recent years. Ernie learned that system too, and he was the Mr. Fixit for just about anything out of whack in The Journal's back shop.
Ernie was a master craftsman who always had to be busy, even in retirement, and his sense of humor was evident from the twinkle in his eye. That persisted even as serious health problems came along, limiting his favorite activities -- riding horseback, operating farm and yard equipment, tinkering with the vehicles, working on heating and cooling systems, and myriad other things. I'll remember him best, though, for the soft-spoken Christian witness he bore every day of his life, as long as I knew him. His faith was undiminished through adversity and times of deep depression, and I rejoice now in knowing that he is at rest and the bad times and the pain are all past for Ernie. We'll miss him in the neighborhood.