Patrick Joseph Stempel
EAST BERNE — Patrick Stempel was straight with his words, his care, and his chainsaw.
He repaired chainsaws in his garage as a side business and hosted annual competitions for log cutting. Mr. Stempel worked for the Berne Highway Department for 25 years and, when he wasn’t on the job, would use his Chevy truck or deisel tractor to plow out anyone in need during a snowstorm.
He had a generous heart, his son, Patrick Stempel Jr., said, and a sense of humor.
“We were wrestling on the ground, and I remember cars coming by and they were actually stopping and watching us,” Mr. Stempel Jr. said of a scene that unfolded at one of the chainsaw competitions. “And, once we got to the mailbox, we got up, shook hands, hugged each other, and walked back to the garage. We just did it playfully, for the heck of it.”
Mr. Stempel died at his home on Saturday, March 1, 2014. He was 74.
Born to the late John and Therezia (née Yanick) Stempel on March 17, 1939, in East Berne, Mr. Stempel was raised on the Stage Road dairy farm he lived on throughout his life. He didn’t graduate from high school, his son said, and became a farmer as a young man.
In 1962, Mr. Stempel took a job in pool consruction with Paddock Pools as he was starting his family.
Because he loved snowplowing so much, Mr. Stempel moved on to a job as a laborer with Albany County after three years of building pools, until a similar road job opened in the town. His brother, John Stempel, was the town’s highway superintendent.
“When you get done, you just see how high the snowbanks are,” said Mr. Stempel’s son, a Berne highway worker himself, of snow plowing’s appeal. It produces visual evidence of how hard one has worked, he said.
Mr. Stempel still helped with farmwork on occasion and at his brother’s sawmill. He used the CB radio handle “Stump Jumper.”
Mr. Stempel was a life member and past chief of the East Berne Fire Company, and a charter member of the Berne Fire Company.
He enjoyed fishing and trapping, and he could just sit and talk. He hunted with his sons and reminisced about small-game hunting when he was younger. He hunted raccoons with Bill, a black and tan dog he trained to go with him.
Mr. Stempel Jr. recalled a hunting story from his father where he and two other hunters, one from Voorheesville, had taken a car together on their trip.
“The fire siren rang,” Mr. Stempel Jr. said. “My Uncle Rudy took my father’s car and went to the firehouse. My father ran down to the night watchman’s car at the county building and took his car to the fire call, and the other guy walked home, because he wasn’t sure where he was.”
Being a hunter, his son said, Mr. Stempel liked Western movies.
“I can remember, as a kid, that’s what got me into John Wayne,” said Mr. Stempel’s son.
Mr. Stempel was a fan of driver Dale Earnhardt in National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. If Earnhardt were racing, Mr. Stempel watched the race.
Mr. Stempel Jr. said his father was proud of his Indian Chief motorcycle and enjoyed racing cars when he was younger. He also owned a coveted six-cylinder diesel tractor from the 1950s, his son said.
His family wrote that he was a kind-hearted man who would help others at any time. He could be stubborn, too.
“I would ask him a problem,” Mr. Stempel Jr. said of repairing a car, “and he goes, ‘I know what to do, but figure it out for yourself.’ He says, ‘I want you to learn.’”
“He wanted me to learn on my own, the same as he learned,” his son said. “He learned everything just hands-on.”
A friend of Mr. Stempel Jr., Digger Busch, said he recalls the competitions at the older Stempel’s house.
“Cars would be lined up a half mile down the road each way,” said Busch. “People from all over would bring their chain saws.”
Mr. Busch admired Mr. Stempel’s chain sharpening done by hand, using files.
“He really respected a person just saying how it is and just beng honest,” Mr. Busch recalled. “That’s all you had to do and he loved you.”
Mr. Stempel’s son said his father’s advice was simple, “Work hard and spend your money wisely.”
Patrick Stempel is survived by his children, Patricia Schaller and her husband, Jack, Patrick Stempel and his wife, Kimberly, Michael Stempel, Diane Belott and her husband, John, and George Stempel; his grandchildren, Felicia, Patrick “P.J.” Jr., Veronica, Michael, Joshua, and Ashley; his great granddaughter, Kaylee, and a second great grandchild due in the end of March; and several nieces and nephews.
His siblings, John, Rudy, Veronica, and Anna, died before him.
Calling hours were on March 5 at the Fredendall Funeral Home.
Mourners may go online to www.fredendallfuneralhome.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Stempel family, 212 Brookhaven Drive, East Berne, NY 12059, to pay for final expenses.
— Marcello Iaia