John Staal, Jr., was born in Columbus, Montana, on March 11, 1931, to hardworking Dutch parents, John Staal, Sr., and Sadie (Vanderby) Staal. One of eventually 10 children, John and his family lived and farmed in the Bozeman area of Montana but soon moved to Artesia, CA, when he was seven years old to live and work on their own dairy. John’s youth and teenage years were full of family and work on the dairy. He attended Bellflower Christian School all of his primary and secondary years. John and his family were members of the Dutch community in Artesia where life went along pretty much as usual until one day he met a beautiful American girl, Dee Clark. John’s whole world changed as he had met the love of his life!
One short year after their first meeting John asked Dee for her hand in marriage. After a couple of years and with overseas duty looming in the United States Army, a whirlwind, three day from start to finish, wedding was planned as John was about to leave. With just a day and half of marriage behind them, John shipped off to Fort Ord and then Korea in 1953. A year and half was long time for John and Dee to be separated from each other, but John was able to make occasional phone calls, send gifts, and write letters. Anyone who knew John was able to see his commitment and faithfulness to his new bride. Once John arrived home family life started in earnest as they began to add children to their home in Long Beach, CA. Their firstborn, David Earl, was born in 1955.
John was always striving to learn and do new things. He had a TV repair business with a friend. He was an avid bowler and played a great game of chess. He collected stamps, coins, among other things. He taught himself how to play the guitar and sing his favorite country songs, like Your Cheating Heart by Hank Williams. While most of John’s brothers continued in the family business with dairies of their own, John felt the call of higher education. He spent 9 years going to the University of Arizona, in Tucson, to earn his BA in Mathematics and Computer Science. During John and Dee’s time in Tucson two daughters were added to the family, Pamela Joyce, in 1958, and Holly Anne in 1962.
In 1964 John moved his family to Sunnyvale, CA, in an area that is now called Silicon Valley. John began a career in the infancy of computer programming at Litton-Mellonics where computers took up an entire room of space and worked on such things as barcodes and the very first satellites used for military purposes. He enjoyed programming computers and was given an opportunity to work for SAS airlines in Denmark in 1968. John took that challenge and moved his family to Charlottenlund, Denmark, for the adventure of a lifetime. For two years, John worked hard but still had time to tour Europe with his family in a little Volkswagen, Beetle. He did much to entertain his children with jokes, little songs, and stories while traveling. He always had a fun little saying or joke or rhyme that brought about much laughter or the “Oh, Dad!” response.
The 1970s brought John and his family back to Sunnyvale, CA, where John continued to be such a faithful father, working hard to support his family but also training them up in the faith. John was always very involved in church as an elder. It was important to him that his family were in church every Sunday. His rich voice would resonate as he sang hymns like Great Is Thy Faithfulness. During this time John and Dee raised teenagers into adults, with both David and Pamela getting married in the late 70s and Holly in the early 80s. In these years, John got to take on one of his most favorite roles, that of being a grandfather of 9 and eventually great grandfather of 3 with a 4th due in November. A loving, steadfast presence in the lives of his children, Dad/Grandpa/G-Pa was there for every birthday or event that was possible for him to attend and a help in many other ways to his children’s young growing families.
He was always thinking and planning. He took hold of his finances and planned an early retirement at only 59 years old. Now the Golden Years really began for him and Dee. The early retirement years were spent traveling with a trailer, visiting their children and grandchildren, and enjoying a country house in Ripon, CA. John loved to work and filled his plate even in retirement with his work of being Classical Treasurer for several years for the Christian Reformed Church, spending more time bowling, and being on the board of his neighborhood association. John always loved dogs and during these years three of his favorites came into his life one after the other. Taggert, a Doberman, was his constant companion even to the point of riding with him wherever he went in the front seat of his truck. Shakker, his regal Schnauzer, and finally Mimi his miniature canine seat partner up until just over a week ago!
As the years went on John was faced with some major trials that made him hold on to the promises of God even more strongly. At 78 he faced Lymphoma and chemo. He laid in his hospital bed and searched the scriptures knowing how much God’s words would comfort him. He put a booklet together called Standing on the Promises. Thankful for God’s healing and his cancer in remission he did his best to share this booklet with many. He wanted others to know the comfort and peace that only God can give. He wanted others to know that the Lord would hold their hand as they put their trust in Him and lead them through their valley of difficulty as well.
Just a little over a week ago, on July 15, John’s Lord and Savior called him home. He gave John a full life full of love, family, work, and faith. John would be the first to say that it was not without its struggles and hardships, but he knew first hand the words of one of his favorite hymns and it really did characterize his life:
He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters calm, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis my God that leadeth me.
Lord I would clasp thy hand in mine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine:
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since “tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
When, by thy grace, the vic’trys won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me, by his own hand he leadeth me: his faithful follower I would be for by his hand he leadeth me.
He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought
William B. Bradbury, 1864