JEFFERSON TWP. — What started as a request from his son resulted in Jefferson Twp. farmer Roger Stockwell going viral on Facebook recently after his family was able to return him to his passion for at least one more ride.
Stockwell, born in 1934, moved from Edgefield with his family to Fayette County when he was just about 7 or 8-years-old. He graduated from Jeffersonville High School in 1952.
“My family moved where I live now in 1941,” Stockwell said during an interview Dec. 22. “I have been farming my whole life, besides the three years I spent in the military. I was in Korea with the Army Security Agency and I like to say that they heard I was coming, so they quit. I was a little late when I got over there, so it was pretty much over with. That was from 1955 to 1958.”
Stockwell said that nearing the end of his service, he took a brief break for 30 days to end up in Fayette County in time to marry his wife, Becky, in 1957 when she graduated high school. The couple moved to Massachusetts for Stockwell to end his service and then they both returned to the county. It was then that he really began to settle into his life as a farmer and father, eventually ending up with three daughters and his son Kevin.
“I couldn’t wait to get home, to get back to farming and get married,” Stockwell said. “Dad kept everything together and had people working. We had a lot of livestock then though, not so much now and we appreciate that especially when it starts snowing and gets cold. Now we farm corn, soybeans and hay.”
He said that he really got into farming because of his dad and brother, who both were in agriculture. Stockwell said farming was what he always did and wanted to do. Some people had encouraged him to attend college after the military, but he continued to pursue his passion. Despite many other opportunities, including remaining in the military and even joining the FBI, Stockwell wanted just to continue farming as his family had always done.
“I even played in the first all-Ohio FFA Band,” Stockwell said, laughing. “I played trumpet. They didn’t call me ‘Hot Lips’ for nothing. Now I have my teeth pulled and can’t blow. I have said for a long time if you can’t have a little fun then to heck with it. I enjoy verbally jousting with people and really like to do that.”
Unfortunately, Stockwell’s ability to help on the family farm took a blow about a year-and-a-half ago. After it was discovered that he had a stone in his bladder the size of a golf ball, Stockwell had an operation. He said the first day after the operation he felt fine, but from there he has faded memories. He was diagnosed with ANCA-associated vasculitis or Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare blood disease.
According to mayoclinic.com, Wegener’s granulomatosis, or granulomatosis with polyangiitis, is an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels in your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and kidneys. It is one of a group of blood vessel disorders called vasculitis. It slows blood flow to some organs and the affected tissues may develop areas of inflammation called granulomas, which sometimes affect how these organs work. Early diagnosis and treatment of granulomatosis with polyangiitis may lead to a full recovery. Without treatment, it can be fatal.
No one knows exactly what causes granulomatosis with polyangiitis. It appears to develop after an infection or other inflammation-causing event triggers an abnormal reaction from the immune system.
Stockwell struggled as he fought the disease. At one point, Becky, who was with him in the hospital, had seen him not breathing and went to find a nurse. When they returned, the nurse issued an immediate “Code Blue” and doctors, nurses and others were called in to try and resuscitate Stockwell. After being gone for longer than a minute, he was brought back to life.
“I was on the prayer chains everywhere and when I speak about my story I always start with, ‘I want to thank you and how many of you believe in prayer?’” Stockwell said. “I know that is all that saved me. I thanked the doctor of my wife many times because if it wasn’t for them sending me to Miami Valley, I don’t think I would have been saved. I knew when I died there were three things that I thought. It is not the way I want it, the girls will be all right, and Kevin and Becky will be all right. I apologized to my wife because if the good Lord had come for me that night, I was ready to go and would’ve went, but I never saw him.”
Stockwell has been recovering and said that he has only felt pain once, despite his feet that continue to give him trouble. It is due to this that he has been unable to return to his farming passion, that is until his son Kevin decided to do something incredible for his father. A video, shot and posted online in early November, has now been viewed over two million times on Facebook, shows the amazing act.
Kevin and friends of the family helped his dad by lifting him on the end of a tractor bucket up to the driver’s seat of a combine. Thanks to the updated controls of the combine and a little instruction from Kevin, Stockwell was able to help with the 2016 harvest by harvesting some of the family corn. Even though he was only in the combine for a few minutes, it brought a small tear to his eye to be able to do what he has loved his entire life.
“Last year I didn’t feel up to it, and I didn’t care too much this year, but I know he really wanted me to drive bad and I thought, ‘By golly I’m going to do it,’” Stockwell said. “It was a piece of cake. It felt wonderful to get back into the driver’s seat. They lifted me up to it and I walked across since I had railings and stuff to hold on to. It was a different combine than what I was used to, and man, I felt awful good.”
With a long life lived, Stockwell has learned the importance of his family. He said that whenever he had a need they saw to it and he couldn’t be prouder of his children. Stockwell said that the farm is in the very capable hands of his son Kevin and he knows that he will take good care of the family business.
“I would like the farm to stay in the family, but I am not going to leave any strings attached,” Stockwell said. “It has been a wonderful life and we are so blessed with this family. We both had good moms and dads, kids, grandkids and now we are on great-grandkids. We are very family oriented and are so blessed with those we have. I said a while back that when I needed something it was there, whatever it was. It is just wonderful and it’s been a wonderful life.”
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy