~ Memorial Article ~
January 5, 2010
William Steven Stone has died. He was 78 years old. According to his family, Stone died peacefully in his sleep, at his daughters home in Hawaii. He is survived by his wife, Maini, and two children Eva Marie Leahey, and Mark Stone.
Steve Stone is best known as the father of the breed in Finland and the United States. One of the foremost authorities on the breed, he authored several books on the subject, his last being "Celebrating The Staffordshire Bull Terrier," which explores the breed through the experiences of many well known fanciers from around the world.
Born 1931, in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, at the age of 13, he moved to northern California, where his father was pursuing a Doctorate at Stanford University. The Stone family settled in Southern California where Steve attended public school and college. While studying at UCLA, he formed a friendship with a student from Finland, and became interested in Finish poetry and Scandinavian Sagas. After serving in the United States Army (1953-1957) Stone decided to move to Finland. There, he attended college and was teaching, and soon afterwards, took a position teaching English at Berlitz. After, he and two other gentlemen formed their own language school teaching both English aad Spanish translation.
While on a civil servants vacation, he met his future wife, Maini, whom he married in 1959. When Steve and Maini decided to add a dog to their young and growing family, they began to research the various breeds. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier satisfied all their requirements, but they were non-existent in Finland. In an issue of Dog World, Stone was drawn to an advertizement placed by John Gordon - Bandits Kennel. After several inquiries, and correspondence with Gordon, the first Stafford arrived in Finland on March 1964. It didn't take long before Stone's growing enthusiasm for the breed prompted more imports, and his planning for a breed club had begun. By 1966, nearly 30 Staffords entered Finland's all breed show, and ranked near the top of the Terrier list. Soon, The Northern Star Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Finland was formed, and Staffords were off and running as a breed in Finland.
In August 1966, after nine years in Finland, the Stone family returned to the United States, where Steve would begin his graduate studies at Occidental College in Southern California. When he boarded the plane to leave Finland, his pocket contained a list of names given to him by John Gordon, Nap Cairns, Rachael Swindells, and other English fanciers. This list contained the names and addresses of all known Stafford owners in the U.S. --- only six (6).
After settling his family in Pasadena, California, Stone began his quest to find the owners of those 6 Staffords. Once contacted by Stone, these owners became very enthusiastic over the prospects of forming a club. On January 14, 1967, the first official Stafford registry and breed club (SBTC/USA) became a reality. The rest is history.
In 1969. Stone returned to Omaha, Nebraska, and taught at the University for twenty years. Upon retirement, Steve and Maini made their home in Mayhill, New Mexico. Up until his death, Stone continued to champion the breed, and leave his mark by helping import some of the finest English, Australian and South African bloodlines to breeders in the U.S.
I believe some choose their canine companions to compliment their own nature, while others, consciously or unconsciously, choose pets with qualities lacking in themselves. It is not surprising, Stone and the breed found each other. What other breed could compliment the man so well. What other man could champion the Stafford so well!
Although the majority of Stafford fanciers will remember Stone as the founder of the breed in Finland and the United States, a lucky few will remember him as a friend. Like the Stafford, he was a real gentleman, honest, and reliable, protective of his family and those he cared about. He always had something positive to say, even about those with whom he disagreed. Stone's willingness to share his vast experience, mentor those interested, and help in any way possible, will be remembered by many.
Stone often said "Listen and learn" "digest what you have heard, then form your own opinion." "Leaning is a life long process, know one has all the answers." "I'm not about to tell you what to think, but hope I can nudge you in the right direction."
We will miss those nudges, and most of all his friendship.