Angels Unawares: W. Owings Stone

W. Owings Stone

By Jarrett Parker Kroll jskroll@rcn.com

Following is an actual unedited e-mail sent to a young W. Owings Stone back in 1998, after I had discovered him on a genealogy email list. The subject was his grandfather and namesake, an Episcopal priest whom I met in Barrington, RI back in the 1960s. All this may be ancient history but it seems appropriate for your readers today...

Dear Owings,

I love this genealogy stuff. According to my rough calculations, I am either the 8th or 9th great grandniece of Deacon Gregory. I think that makes us some kind of cousins. So I'm pleased to meet you, Cousin!

Thank you so much for the long, lovely and informative note and for catching me up on your grandfather and grandmother. I'd kept in touch until the early 1980s and I felt it was too much to hope they'd still be with us. But thanks to your family for keeping that wonderful name, so I could find you.

I can imagine having a grandfather who was a minister would be pretty inhibiting while you were young -- it's wonderful you were able to get to know him better when you were grown.

This story is both difficult and personal, but I want to share it with you anyway. There's no way I can ever repay his kindness but if my story gives you pleasure and pride, then I'll have made a start.

I met your grandfather in 1966 in the midst of a thunderous monsoon...at the bus stop located at the end of the driveway of the Red Brick Church. I had walked there from my parents' house about a quarter mile away, with a suitcase and $6.83 taken from my piggy bank. I was 19 and hysterical. I'd just lost my firstborn child to adoption and my mother, who had engineered the whole thing, seemed determined to drive me over the edge. She had just about succeeded when I seized upon the idea of catching a bus for New York City. With no idea of the bus schedule or but the vague idea that I had enough money to cover the cost of the ticket, I set off in the dark and the driving rain for the bus stop.

I'd been sitting there on the bench in the rain for the better part of an hour when a pair of headlights came down the driveway from the church and stopped alongside me. Your grandfather popped his head out the window and yelled through the noise of the rain, "what are you doing here?"

"Waiting for a bus," I answered.

"Do have any idea how long that could take?" he asked.

Having absolutely no idea, I dissolved driveling into a pile of tears that threatened to upstage the rain. I had no idea who he was but something about him -- and not just the collar -- made me feel safe. Safe enough to cry...

He got out of the car and came round, picked up my suitcase and guided me to the car. He said he was going to take me home to Mrs. Stone and we'd "talk about it." Your grandmother looked surprised for about 60 seconds when I appeared, dripping, in her foyer, then she gently steered me upstairs to towels and dry clothes. Then hot tea, some of her famous cookies. and gentle talk. They called my parents to let them know I was safe. Your grandfather invited them to come over for a conference the next day, against my better judgment. I was afraid they were going to drag me back to the house I had just escaped.

"WOS1" listened to my story with great patience, because it was difficult to talk through my tears. When I was done he asked me what I thought I was going to do with $6.83 on a bus to New York. I still shudder to think what might have become of me if I'd actually caught that bus. I had no degree, no experience, no skills and, basically, No Clue. I just knew if I stayed in my parents house, somebody was going to get hurt.

The next day, when my parents arrived, he announced that I would not be returning home, that he would see to it that I found a place to live and a job in Providence. He was magnificent. I'd never before encountered such kindness. And with my parents, he was just stern and strong enough so they backed off. And then he DID IT. He got me a roommate, an apartment and a job -- in something like three days. I don't remember exactly, but he did exactly what he said he was going to do. It was a perfectly lovely job, considering my lackluster resume, and a very pleasant roommate in a great (cheap) apartment. I worked at this job for six months, then managed to finesse my move to New York, with a job waiting for me and a relative to live with till I got settled. And every day I said a silent thank you to WOS1.

I've been living here now since 1966. I married and raised a son, now 20, a student at Brown (about to spend Junior Year in London).

I've thought many times about your grandfather since 1995, because I think he would have been pleased to know that I searched for and found my firstborn son. I found him just after his 30th birthday, and have enjoyed getting to know his adoptive parents, and rejoiced to know that he had a good home. He now lives in Los Angeles. His adoptive mother works for Brown University and occasionally employs my younger son, and everyone agrees that the two boys look very much alike. My mother is still an alcoholic but somehow we've managed to refashion a relationship of sorts. Nobody got murdered, at least .

On one of my recent trips to Barrington, I noted with pleasure that there's a street named "Owings Stone Lane." Well done.

And now it turns out your grandmother was my cousin. Sheesh, life is grand, isn't it?

All the best,

Jarrett Parker Kroll

Jarrett Kroll
Communications & Publicity; Webmistress
Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
Home: (212) 889-5068
jskroll@rcn.com


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

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