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Harry Standefer - A Tribute

Samuel H. "Harry" Standefer authored the book "Standefer, Standifer, Standiford - 
A Family History and Genealogy", so often quoted on this Website.

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune;  Publication Date: March 03, 1993

Samuel H. `Harry' Standefer, 97 | Businessman was noted civic leader in East San Diego

 Obituary: Samuel H. "Harry" Standefer, a longtime East San Diego civic leader who helped form the first grass-roots neighborhood planning commission in the 1950s, died yesterday at Alvarado Convalescent Hospital. He was 97. Built as straight and almost as tall as the piney woods back in his native Arkansas, Mr. Standefer was educated in a one-room schoolhouse. The school was so poor there was no money for paper or pencils and he wrote his lessons on a 12-by-18-inch slab of slate in a wooden frame. His teacher was his father and he followed in his footsteps, eventually teaching in a one-room school. Lessons were held five months out of the year -- the other seven were saved for helping with the crops. 

Mr. Standefer first saw the world beyond the Ouachita Mountains in 1914. That year, he rode freight cars to get work during the wheat harvest in Kansas. He lived with the hobos and was even arrested for vagrancy and spent a night in jail at Joplin, Mo.

 Then came World War I and he was drafted in 1918. Five weeks after induction, he was aboard ship headed for France. Before they left, they had given the men a rifle-range test. "Now I grew up with a .22-caliber in my hands," he once told a reporter, "my granddad's squirrel-hunting cap n' ball rifle. When I set that Army rifle against my shoulder, it had found a home." Mr. Standefer shot so well that the Army promoted him to corporal, then sergeant and made him a rifle instructor.

 After the war, he returned to Arkansas and began teaching in a one-room school. He spent $9 from his first $12 paycheck to buy something the school didn't have -- a dictionary. He said that by the end of the first school year, the book was all dog-eared and worn out. He taught school in Colorado for a few years and then decided there was more money in selling advertising for a newspaper in Colorado Springs. He later moved to Texas, again selling advertising.

 Then Mr. Standefer struck it rich, albeit on paper, when he and a friend formed a company to lease neon signs to every drugstore, bar and barbershop in every little Texas town. It was the fall of 1929 and the two had signed rental contracts worth a million dollars. Overnight, when the stock market crashed, the two went from being worth a million dollars to being broke. 

Mr. Standefer moved to San Diego in the early 1950s to work as a cost estimator for the Navy. He later worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1955, he started his own cost-estimating business and kept the firm going until a few years ago. On his 93rd birthday, he bought himself a computer to make life easier.

 When he first moved to San Diego, he became involved in civic affairs. Among the projects he was most proud, two stand out, according to a distant cousin. He headed the committee formed to raise and pass a bond issue to replace the old Food and Beverage Building in Balboa Park with the $4 million Casa del Prado. Second, he spearheaded the modernization of University Avenue in the early 1960s. Mr. Standefer also headed the East San Diego Chamber of Commerce and formed the first grass-roots, neighborhood planning commission in East San Diego. He served as campaign chairman of former City Councilman Allen Hitch's unsuccessful 1962 bid for mayor. In 1970, he was persuaded to run for city council and was successful through the primary, but lost the election to Jim Bates.

At age 92, Mr. Standefer completed and published a genealogy of his family. Last year he finished an autobiography.

Survivors include one son, Ralph of San Antonio, N.M.; two daughters, Betty Kulani of El Cajon and Ann Utterback of La Mesa; nine grandchildren; and 26 great-grandchildren.

 Services are pending at Featheringil Mortuary.

In Harry's own words....p.v

"I was born in a one-room log cabin.  A cabin that had been abandoned but made liveable again by my parents when they went to Mt. Ida, Arkansas where my father, LeRoy Standefer would attend a small Normal Academy where he would extend his education from the sixth grade to where he could pass the State examination for a license to teach in the one-room, one-teacher schools in the Ouachita Mountain area of Arkansas.

My parents were barely settled in this crude abode when their first child was born --sister Jettie who died only a few weeks before I was born, May 2, 1895.

After two years of hard study my father was prepared to begin his teaching career in the summer of 1896.  In the year 1899 father purchased a "Homestead Right" from a brother-in-law.  This homestead was located about midway between Mt. Ida and Hot Springs, Arkansas.  This homestead of 160 acres had some 10 acres that could be cultivated.  The other 150 acres lay on the southern slope of the Ouachita Mts. Adjoining were thousands of acres of forest primeval.

Father added a lean-to to the one-room log cabin for a dining room.  For the first five years mother cooked on the fireplace.  She got her first cook stove in 1904.

While father was away, five months each year, mother and the children (by 1914 there were 9 of us) took care of the growing number of livestock.  The nearby mountain meadows offered abundant free grazing the year round.

After several years it became obvious that more farming land was necessary to offer employment for the large and maturing family.  The homestead was thickly forested with beautiful southern pine and stately white oak.  Father sold land and timber to A. L. Clark Lumber Co. and purchased a farm some four miles distant.

All this while my brothers, sisters and I attended the local one-room, one-teacher schools five months each year.  These schools taught only to the seventh grade.  In 1912 I was able to pay for board and room and attend a term of the school in Mt. Ida.  Today my work would be considered Junior High.  For a couple of years I studied correspondence courses from the University of Arkansas.  In 1916 I took the State of Arkansas teacher's examination and taught my first school at the village of Crystal Springs, sixteen miles west of Hot Springs.  In 1917 I taught at a community known as Joplin some six miles further west.

In 1918 I was drafted into the Armed Services for duty in World War I.  Following a year in France and Germany I returned to teach again at Crystal Springs, Arkansas.

On Valentine's Day 1920 I married a Miss Ella Johannah Engleman at Hot Springs.  A search for improved health took us to Colorado where I taught one year at Palmer Lake.  Following that I joined the staff of an advertising agency in Colorado Springs.  After a couple of years I joined the staff of the Colorado Springs newspapers.  A few years later, in 1929, I established a Neon Sign factory in Amarillo, Texas.  After one year of a booming, profitable business, along came the Great Depression and wiped me out overnight.

I again entered newspaper work in Texas until World War II took me along with the crowd to California.  My record of freedom from the "isms" of the world qualified me for employment with the Atomic Energy Commission in classified work in Imperial Valley near El Centro, California.  During this time my family lived in San Diego.  Following the War, I established my own business as Construction Cost Analyst in San Diego and now, at age 94 I still serve some of my long time clients.

In the winter of 1963-'64, I spent four months in the Navy Hospital in San Diego with the odds against my recovery.  There was time for reflection and I promised myself that, if my health permitted, I would try to learn from whence I came.  Within the next two years I completed a chart of my limb of the family tree covering eleven generations.

This work put me in touch with other Standefers who were doing research and equally interested in recording a more widespread genealogy.  As I learned of additional family researchers and the vast amount of material available I became persuaded that history of the clan could and should be compiled.  As a result I humbly submit this book as the result of that persuasion.  But it could never have been accomplished without the enthusiastic help of accommodating relatives.

My Dream

It is my dream that a copy of this book will find its way into the home of every Standefer descendant -- especially the homes with children.  I am convinced that it will enhance the self-esteem and self-confidence of every youngster to know from whence he or she came and what their ancestors did to help build this great nation.

For those adults interested primarily in establishing a pedigree, this book will surely help them gain that goal.  Neer again will a Standefer descendant have to spend years searching for his pedigree."

H. S.

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