Lumber store founder J.W. Stine celebrates a century of life today. His children share their memories.
When Jay Stine had to write a report in elementary school on who he considered his idol, only one person came to mind — his dad.
Jackson William “J.W.” Stine is the co-founder of Starlin Lumber, now known as Stine Lumber. The patriarch is celebrating his 100th birthday today with his seven children, 31 grandchildren and 71 great-grandchildren.
As a child, Jay said, he “couldn’t ask for more” from his parents. He said J.W. would take his children on a vacation each summer and to camp-outs at Big Lake.
“He’s just a great dad,” Jay said. “He always thought about the kids; having seven of them, I guess he had to.”
Sister Janie Lacroix agreed, calling him a “very easy-going, encouraging dad.”
“I don’t think any of us can ever say he lost his temper with us,” she said. “He always wanted to do whatever we wanted to do, whatever we were interested in.” Lacroix, a sculptor, credits her father for encouraging her to pursue her passion for art.
“He was so encouraging and always loved everything I did,” she said. “He would take me to my art classes and make sure I had all the supplies I needed.”
Jay said that growing up with six siblings was an adventure.
“I really feel bad for those who only had one or two brothers or sisters,” he said with a chuckle. “There was never a dull moment. As soon as Dad would get home from work, all of us kids would run and jump up on him and he’d grab us all. I know he was always tired, but he never showed it.
“My dad’s lap was my favorite place to sit,” Lacroix said. “If I walked in a room and my dad was sitting, I walked in and sat on his lap. I was such a daddy’s girl; my arms were always around him.”
Son Dennis said J.W. has always been energetic in everything he does, particularly their family vacations before interstates were built. He said he would make sure to stop at roadside motels that had swimming pools out front, one of the family’s favorite spots.
“He’d park the car and before we would take anything out we would get our swimsuits on and swim,” Dennis said with a laugh. “Dad would be right in there with us until all hours of the night and then get right back in the station wagon and drive the next day.”
Jay said he has always enjoyed listening to his father’s World War II stories. After a working for a year in the shipyards of Orange, Texas, laying out plate steel for ships to support the war, J.W. and best friend, J.C. Carlin, volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a predecessor to the U.S. Air Force.
J.W. was a pilot on a Martin B-26 Marauder bomber aircraft and served in the war from 1944 and 1945. Jay said he remembers him talking often about a situation “where he was going to be a copilot for more or less a suicide-type of mission.”
“These three planes were going out ahead of the other groups to let out chaff, which is a bunch of tin foil, just to mess up the (enemy’s) radar,” Jay said. “He said he lagged behind the other two planes and as he was trying to catch up with them, he noticed something going by on each side of his plane.”
Jay said they were rockets, and J.W. saw the two planes ahead, which were being flown by friends, explode.
“Then, all of a sudden, two German jets came right over him, but those jets were known to not hold much fuel and they kept going and never came back for him,” Jay said. “It really scared him, though, and he said he immediately turned and went and found another big group of B-26s and said, ‘I jumped right in the middle of them.’ ”
Jay said his father served 40 missions during his military service. His bombardment group earned two Distinguished Unit Citations and the French Croix de Guerre, France’s highest honor given to citizens of a foreign country.
When J.W. returned from the war, he and Carlin bought land to create Starlin Heights Subdivision — Starlin being a combination of the names Stine and Carlin. They divided the land, sold the lots and constructed homes for other returning veterans. The friends also opened Studebaker Auto and a small cafe. In 1952, the pair opened Starlin Lumber, which at the time competed against nine other lumber yards in Sulphur.
Jay said his father never lost his love for flying. He and Carlin bought a small, two-seat airplane that they parked in a field near Sulphur Mines.
Son Dick said his father inspired him to join the Air Force and become a pilot. As a child, he would ride with his father and Carlin, his godfather, in the airplane.
“I was really thrilled,” Dick said. “That was my first big venture into aviation.”
J.W. married high school sweetheart Doris “Dee Dee” Drost on Jan. 14, 1944. Their first son, Dick, was born while J.W. was serving overseas in the war. He learned of his birth through a telegram that mistakenly read, “It’s a Box.”
“I’ve gotten a rough time out of that; that’s one story I hear a lot about,” Dick said. “But Dad said, ‘Oh I knew what it meant, I knew what it meant.’ ”
Son David said his fondest memories of his father involve haircuts on the family’s back porch. At the time, he said Davy Crockett and coonskin caps were popular.
“Dad would almost shave us into a crew cut, but he would always leave one of us with a ‘Davy Crockett tail,’ as we called it,” he said. “You didn’t want to be the one with a raccoon tail because everyone would laugh at you. He would eventually cut it off, but we had fun with it.”
Son Gary said he likes to think he was his father’s “sidekick” growing up.
“We did a lot together, hunting, fishing, shrimping. I just loved him, and we always had a great time together,” he said. “It’s amazing because I know he worked, but it seemed like he was always there for us.”
Gary said he was the first of his brothers to join the family business.
“My brothers as they graduated college came in behind me, except for my older brother, Dick. He came in last because he served in the Air Force in Vietnam,” Gary said.
J.W. encouraged his sons to become part of the business, but never demanded it, and he eventually slowed his involvement in the company to allow them to shine. The fact that all of his sons got involved in the business “speaks volumes,” Dennis said.
“We didn’t have to, we just silently saw his work and his passion and we joined him in that endeavor,” he said. “He had a passion for what he did, and we wanted to be a part of that.”
David said J.W. took a lesser role in the company “so that we could take a step forward.”
“He decreased while we increased, if you will, and that’s a true sign of humility whenever anyone does that,” he said.
When son, Tim, was permanently paralyzed during a diving accident on July 4, 1981, J.W. retired to focus on the family. Tim said he “spent four to six months” in a hospital and underwent rehabilitation before going home.
“I just was in a situation where I was in a house that wasn’t wheelchair accessible and I just didn’t want to get out of bed,” he said. “I guess I was in a depression and feeling sorry for myself and I didn’t want to be a burden — particularly on my parents who had raised their kids. Why would they want a 24-year-old son to look after?”
But Tim said his father didn’t give up on him.
“My dad would come over to my house every day and get me up,” he said. “I didn’t expect him to, I didn’t want him to but gosh he would just needle me and I would just do it. And once I got up, I was glad I got up.”
J.W. also made adjustments to a van so that Tim could drive again, something that “completely changed my life,” Tim said.
“One day I was sitting there and my dad came over and he said, ‘Try it.’ And I started doing it,” Tim said. “At the time it was so hard for the muscles. Slowly he’d ride with me and I built those muscles up to where he’d not ride with me but be following me. My dad is my hero.”
All seven of J.W.’s children said his strong work ethic, integrity, honesty and patience are but a few of the strengths they most admire in him.
“I’m always impressed about how grateful Daddy is,” Dennis said. “He always expresses his gratitude and I’m always impressed by that and I hope to emulate that, as well.”
J.W.’s appreciation for others “endeared him to his customers,” David said.
“He was such a positive role model for us, and he was always our encourager,” he said. “Even though he took a diminished role when he retired, he is always in the background cheering us on.”
Even at 100 years old, David said his father continues to lead a remarkable life filled with joy, humility, gratitude and love.
“Because my dad is still with us, he’s like a unifier; we’re all spokes in the wheel and he is that main central unit for our family,” Lacroix said. “He’s such a blessing for our family.”
The cities of Sulphur and Lake Charles have issued proclamations today in honor of J.W.’s birthday and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., has announced J.W.’s birthday in the congressional record.
Jackson William “J.W.” Stine, co-founder of Starlin Lumber, now known as Stine Lumber, is celebrating his 100th birthday today.
Dee Dee and J.W. Stine during World War II. Stine served in the Army Air Corps, a predecessor to the Air Force. Stine was a pilot on a Martin B-26 Marauder bomber aircraft, serving in the war from 1944 to 1945.
In this family photo from the late 1960s are, standing from left: Gary, Tim, Dennis, J.W., David, Jay and Dick. Seated are Janie and Dee Dee.
J.W. Stine has 31 grandchildren and 71 great-grandchildren.
J.W. Stine and his high school sweetheart, Doris “Dee Dee” Drost, on their first date. The couple was married Jan. 14, 1944.