"Gindlesmith" Life
written by stacey smith june 2023

Bernard Louis Stoffel 1

(an evolving work of progress)
  • Barney, Big Barney, or Grump, was born on March 4, 1919, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His father, Edward Henry Stoffel, was 40 years old; and his mother, Stella Gertrude Stoffel, was 34.  

  • Barney enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve prior to WW11.  He was a radioman on a tender in Trinidad and was on duty when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  After the war started,  he went to submarine school and served in the Pacific throughout the war.  While attending sub school, Barney met Hilda Sims while on shore leave.  She was a student at Louisiana State University (LSU), studying to become a teacher. The two would eventually marry and in 1946,   Barney and Hilda had their son, Bernard Louis II.  It is assumed they were living in Louisiana at the time.

  • While stationed at U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, in Kern, California; Barney and Hilda had their daughter, Karen Lynn, on March 22, 1951.

  • It is unclear when the family moved to Alaska for Barney’s work. However, pictures are marked “McGrath, Alaska, May 1954”.  Working for Cubic Corporation, he was a private contractor that worked with NORAD at Tatalina Air Force Station surveying the Tokotna mountain top for installation of distant early warning radar.  McGrath was an assignment that Barney went on.  The family would have been stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.

  • Upon returning to the contiguous United States, the family came to Choctaw Beach, Florida and Barney built a house for them while working privately at Egland Air Force Base.  Barney built the Choctaw Beach home with some help from subcontractors.  From their front porch, you could look out across the bay and see Destin, Florida in the distance.  There were no lights in Destin visible from their home aside from a safety beacon because in 1963 it was a sleepy fishing village; not a hustling and bustling tourist destination.

  • Sometime in the late 1960’s NASA hired Barney to work on the Mercury Project.  The family then bought a house in Merritt Island, Florida and kept both homes.  It was here that both children attended and graduated from High School.

  • Sometime in the late 1970’s, Barney and Hilda took an early retirement after he had a stroke and some issues with blood pressure.  They moved back to their family home in Choctaw Beach, Florida and used this time to enjoy travel and family together.  They took many trips to Mexico together (a favorite destination).

  • Diving was another of Barney’s interesting abilities.  He often went on dive trips.  He continued to dive very late in life; until he was no longer able to pass recertification due to his heart/medical restrictions.  He brought home some interesting finds during those times; as restrictions were not so strict.  In fact, his daughter owned several pieces of black coral jewelry that he had made for her out of black coral that he legally harvested while on dive trips.  Additionally, a significant sized piece of black coral can be seen on a necklace Barney wears in several dive trip photos.  Unfortunately, there was no requirement for paperwork back then so those jewelry items can no longer be worn in public because there is no proof that they were acquired legally.  

  • On one of their Mexico trips, they stayed in the Hotel Marlow in Mexico City.  This was December of 1976.  Just 45 miles from Mexico City, stands the world’s most dangerous and active volcano.  Popocatepeti smokes, smolders, and threatens roughly 20 million nearby residents.  There are photos that prove that this didn’t keep Barney and Hilda away.

  • On June 17, 1976, their first and only Grandson, Jeremiah (Jeremy) Smith was born to Karen and her then husband Steven Smith.  Barney and Hilda would become very instrumental in the upbringing and shaping of Jeremy’s life.  Karen, Steve, and Jeremy lived in Jacksonville, Florida.  Karen worked in finance and Steve worked as a property appraiser.

  • After the death of their father in 1980, the siblings held a family reunion in conjunction with a graveside mass for their father.  This was the first time since 1931 that all of the siblings had been together at the same time.  This took place in Portland, Oregon.

  • Barney was 89 when his wife Hilda (86) passed away in 2008.  They had been married for 65 years.

  • By 2013, it was apparent that Grump was in the beginning stages of dementia.  Karen had a book of family photos made for him so that he would have something to help him remember who everyone was.

  • Roughly around the age of 96, Barney willingly moved in with his daughter’s family in McAlpin, Florida because he was aware of his impending and onseting dementia.  During this time, his Grandson got engaged and married Stacey Gindlesperger.  Barney was a big fan of Stacey.  She made him his first birthday cake (his birthday fell during lent season and he was a devout Catholic so he never had one).  She told him that at 96 years old, she was sure God wouldn’t mind if he had some birthday cake during lent.  He relented and had a piece of cake.  He asked for seconds.

  • After a period of time, his symptoms worsened.  He and his daughter agreed he should move to a care facility nearby and he spent the remainder of his life at the Advent Christian Village in Dowling Park, Florida.  He was quite the local character there.  He would go jogging and flirt with the nurses.  Always the social butterfly.  This is where he was residing when he learned that his son had passed away, as well as, when he learned that his Grandson and Granddaughter-in-law were expecting his first biological Great Grandchild (Victoria Lynn Smith).  He missed meeting her by only a few months.  She was born in May of 2018.  This is also where he was when he died at the age of 98 on January 22, 2018.  

  • Barney’s final wishes were to have a Catholic ceremony at his home church in Niceville, Florida and to have his ashes buried at sea with his comrades specifically in the South China Sea.  His daughter Karen planned a Memorial Service for him at her home church (where Barney attended while visiting and living in the Live Oak area), as well as, a formal Catholic ceremony in Niceville, Florida at his home church.  Karen was still working on the arrangements for his sea burial when she fell seriously ill and passed away in February of 2020.  Barney’s cremated remains were passed down to his son-in-law Ricky Paul Balfour.  Upon the death of Paul, Barney’s remains again passed down to Barney’s grandson Jeremy.  The arrangements for Barney’s burial at sea still need to be finalized so Barney can be at peace in this earthly realm.  However, as a devout and practicing Catholic to his very last breath, there is no doubt in his family’s minds and hearts that Barney is asleep in the Lord and will join his beloved family members again one day in Heaven.

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