Stan Baldwin, 96, died December 8, 2022, in Merriam, Kansas. He was born January 2, 1926, in Kansas City to Margaret Lucille (Wilhite) Baldwin and Harland Scott Baldwin. He attended Merriam Grade School, walking along the old streetcar tracks parallel to Johnson Drive with his best friend Billy Bob Whitfield. Summers during his early years were often spent at his grandparents’ (John and Lucille Wilhite) retirement farm in Branson, Missouri, where he spent many hours playing outdoors with his older sister Joan and cousin Jack Wilhite. He retained pleasant memories of these youthful summers all his life, especially the sleepy contentment he felt after eating a big piece of his grandmother’s hot blackberry pie with ice cream, and the insect chorus lullaby he heard while falling asleep at night in his cot on the front porch.
Stan continued his education at Shawnee Mission Rural High School. When he was 14, he and his sister pooled their money to purchase a Model A, which Stan promptly painted Chinese red with black fenders and added an ahooga horn. The car necessitated a summer job, and he worked one summer at Stowe Hardware in downtown Kansas City. Stan’s interest in tinkering began as a teenager. His mother loved to entertain, and Stan’s responsibility for these frequent soirées was to hand-crank the ice-cream freezer. He installed a washing-machine mechanism on the crank to take over the task—the first of hundreds of mechanical modifications he made to everyday objects to make them better suit his purposes.
One adventure Stan vividly remembered was the bicycle trip he and a friend took in August 1942, from Merriam, Kansas, to Branson, Missouri. Without any initial destination in mind, they meandered from town to town, circling each town square before leaving. They stopped in at small-town grocery stores for bread, peanut butter and jelly, pedaled over endless hills, inadvertently camped in a cemetery one night, showed up unannounced at his aunt’s friend Madge Bennet’s house in Branson to borrow water cans, went fishing in a borrowed boat on Lake Taneycomo, and hastened back through a cold rain to get home in time before school started. It was his last summer of youthful freedom.
Shortly after graduating in May 1943 at the age of 17, Stan joined the U.S. Navy. He graduated from midshipman school at Fort Schuyler, New York, in 1944 and then attended advanced line officer training in Miami. He served in the Pacific on a subchaser and patrol craft, and he was mid-ocean on his first cruise when the war ended.
After his military service, Stan completed his mechanical engineering degree at the University of Kansas in 1949 and began work at Armco Steel Kansas City Works. Because there were no engineer positions available, he began as a clerk in the engineering department. His first job was to organize and catalog a four-foot stack of mixed engineering drawings that had accumulated—he was told that if he didn’t know what a drawing was or how it fit in, to go out into the mills and figure it out. This experience provided him with an in-depth knowledge of the Kansas City Works and acquainted him with all the mills and shops and the people who worked in them. After two years of organizing the drawings and typing more than 300,000 index cards with his two-fingered peck, he was hired as an engineer. A few years later he was asked if he’d like to try management, and he agreed. Over a period of six years, Stan was promoted to turn foreman and shift supervisor in various mills, and finally to Superintendent of the Rolling Mills, where he spent most of his career. He traveled extensively internationally during the last decades of his job.
Stan married Margaret Ruth Bechtel of Brookside (KCMO) in 1949. They built a house in Overland Park and raised a family of five children. The devoted love and respect he and Margaret shared for each other was evident and lasting. They provided a physical and emotional refuge for their children throughout their lives. Vacations all over the United States gave the children knowledge of the beauty and history of their country, as well as an intolerance for close proximity in the back of a station wagon. As the children grew up and left home, Stan and Margaret continued to promote family togetherness by sponsoring a mini-reunion each year in the Ozarks over a period of more than 20 years. These gatherings grew to include new daughters- and sons-in-law and grandchildren as they joined the family, and several generations of Baldwins have a map of Silver Dollar City embedded in their minds.
Following his retirement in 1988, Stan joined the International Executive Service Corps, and he and Margaret traveled to steel towns all over the world. They also traveled for fun. Stan nursed Margaret through her final illness from Parkinson’s disease; she died in 2006. In 2020 Stan sold his house and moved back to Merriam to live with his daughter and son-in-law, Charis and Roy Baldwin Phillips.
Stan had a strong Christian faith that expressed itself in his personal, family, and community life, and carried him through life’s many vicissitudes and troubles. For many years he and Margaret were active at Southwest Bible Church, and Stan took hundreds of teenage boys from the church on camping and canoe trips over a period of 40 years. Stan and Margaret taught Sunday School at Hilltop Residential Center for more than 40 years, with Stan carrying on alone after Margaret’s death. Stan also served on the board of Bible Impact Ministries for many years. In his later years, he attended Woodson Avenue Bible Church.
Stan was an artist with steel and a welder, creating many practical and beautiful items for the family home. He loved working outside and continued to mow the yard until a year before his death. Beyond his own household repairs, he assisted an endless stream of neighbors and friends in his garage shop. He had a positive outlook on life, loved to tell a joke, puzzle people with a matchstick trick, or just visit and play games.
Stan was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret (Bechtel) Baldwin; his parents, Margaret and Harland Baldwin; his sister and brother-in-law, Joan (Baldwin) and Stuart Sandberg; and sisters- and brothers-in-law Bob & Beth (Bechtel) Lauchlan and Earl & Rosalie (Bechtel) Hormberg. He is survived by his children and grandchildren: Mark Baldwin; Jonathan and Angela (Dunn) Baldwin, Vanessa (Isaiah Rivera), Zoë, Simone, Jonathan, Gabrielle, and James; Carol Baldwin, Craig Blocksome, Daniel, Rebecca, and Patricia; David and Norma (Rhoades) Baldwin, Caroline (Al Newton) and Brittney (Ray Orellano); and Charis and Roy Baldwin Phillips. He is also survived by great-grandchildren Riley, Cailey, and Kierce Jones; Starla, Georgia, Rosalie, and Athena Orellano; and Rhea Rivera; as well as numerous nieces & nephews.
Stan was laid to rest at Johnson County Memorial Gardens in Overland Park. Funeral services will be held Saturday, Dec. 17, at 11:30 a.m. at Woodson Avenue Bible Church. Memorial contributions are suggested to Bible Impact Ministries or City Union Mission.