A farewell to a dear friend

PJ Stanely

In the wee hours of Thursday, Sept. 22, the American Red Cross lost a dear friend when James “PJ” Stanley passed away after suffering a massive stroke.

Quiet-natured PJ thoroughly enjoyed serving others, which he did in many ways: as a Red Cross volunteer, as a city councilman in Claremont, N.C., and as a policeman and rescue worker.

“The Bible says, ‘The meek shall inherit the Earth,’ ” said Red Cross Catawba Valley Chapter Executive Suzan Anderson as she fought back tears. “He had a quiet, profound impact on peoples’ lives.”

PJ loved deploying on disasters. When Hurricane Irene appeared on the radar, he was first in line to ask to deploy. He waited patiently as the Red Cross ascertained a place for him, which we finally did a few weeks ago.

“There was never a happier man on earth than when he showed up at our office ready to go,” Anderson said. She noted that when the relief operation began wrapping up, PJ told his supervisors that he didn’t have to be home for a few days yet, and he wanted to stay to continue helping people.

Upon returning from that deployment, PJ learned he had Stage 3 leukemia. During a round of chemotherapy, he suffered a massive stroke and passed away overnight.

The response from our Red Cross family was overwhelming, as staff and volunteers gathered at the Catawba Valley Chapter to remember their dear friend.

Most remembered him for teaching emergency services classes with the Red Cross. For many years, PJ taught fellow volunteers to drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).

“He was known as a stickler for making people learn the right way and do it as safely as possible,” said local Red Cross volunteer Karyn Yaussy. “Volunteers talked about how he made them do it right, and to celebrate their success, he would have them drive the ERV over to a local donut shop that he always said had ‘the best’ donuts. I think they had the best teacher.”

Yaussy had known PJ for more than 25 years, which is why she was especially excited when he retired as a paramedic in 2005 and decided to begin his volunteer work with the Red Cross.

“PJ was a calm, quiet man with a heart for service and a mission for helping wherever he could,” she said. “Despite how busy he stayed, he always made people feel like he had all the time in the world to listen to what they wanted to say or to ask them how they were doing.”

As news of PJ’s death sunk in, Yaussy said she kept thinking about running into PJ on the Outer Banks just a few days after Hurricane Irene at a shelter in Rodanthe. PJ had traveled for hours that day by ferry to make sure the people were in the safest place possible.

“He was happy – and it showed all over his face as he talked to me about what he was doing for the Red Cross and the people he had met,” Yaussy recalled. “There was no doubt in my mind that PJ was in the right place doing the right things for all the right reasons. That day, he was a man on a mission – one we had no way of knowing was his last. What a wonderful, noble gift he gave the Red Cross to spend his last days that way.”

Receiving of friends for Stanley is from 2 until 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Mark’s Family Life Center. The funeral is at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church is at 3216 West Main Street, Claremont.

Watch a video of PJ captured during his deployment for Hurricane Irene

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