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July 13, 2005

Jack Stone was one of the coolest characters I've ever dealt with, and I knew him when "cool" had a slightly different connotation than it does today. He was laid back, as the adjective implies now, and he was also seemingly unperturbed no matter what kind of hand the world dealt him day after day. He was, I believe, a notary public, perhaps a justice of the peace, and he answered the telephone in Dr. J.W. Francis' office when the lady hired for that purpose was assisting the Doctor in other ways. None of his jobs paid much money, but he was content. I've been told that he once owned and operated a large ready to wear clothing store, but that was before my time and I have no personal knowledge of that business.

Dr. Francis' office was just across the hall from our apartment on the second floor of the building where my late Dad, Fred W. Beers, had operated the City Drug Store. Dr. Francis was a family friend, in addition to being our physician. His wife, Rachel, and their daughter, Katherine Khoury, were good friends of my Mother, Ivy Beers. Katherine, her husband Joe Khoury, and Rachel often brought us squirrel, frogs and other wild game from hunting expeditions. I personally never cared much for any of it, but it was the thought that counted.

Over a period of time, Dr. Francis had several office girls. One of them was Belle Ruff, a rather matronly lady who was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dutch Ruff. Among other things, the Ruffs were jailers at the county courthouse before the current crisis came along. Another helper was Dr. Francis' daughter-in-law, Mildred Green Francis, and another was one of the Terronez girls, who was very professional and a good worker. But through each of them, Jack Stone was in the background, ready to pick up the phone if it rang while they were busy and sharp enough to schedule visits by patients. We liked Dr. Francis as a friend and physician, and Rachel had an alterations business on the “balcony” at the rear of our drug store, which made visiting with my Mother and other friends a possibility each day.

But back to Jack. His regular office was in a small building on the north side of the square, not far from our drug store, and normally occupied by Mr. A.W. Tucker, who was in the oil and gas business. Jack had a desk in Mr. Tucker's office, but he preferred the reading matter in magazines and newspapers in Dr. Francis' office, so that is where he usually could be found during office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. After a bite to eat from a restaurant at 6 p.m. each weekday evening, he brought out a straight-back wooden chair from Mr. Tucker's office, planted it beneath the pole-mounted street light on the surface of Delaware Street in front of the office, then adjusted the volume on our drug store radio, perhaps 50 feet away so he could clearly hear the dialogue on "Amos and Andy," the wildly popular NBC radio show that he never missed. Young drug store clerks quickly learned not to fool with the radio while that show was on the air. Jack would sit on the chair, regally, arms folded, pipe and hat in place, and listen to each night's comic episode. He was the epitome of cool. You don't see folks doing this like that any more.

More on this profile of Jack Stone when we come back in a few days.