March 3, 2022

At 102 Stanley Lyko Still Has a Twinkle in His Eyes!

Stanley Lyko

Stanley Lyko, who turned 102 on December 12, readily admits he has a hard time believing he’s one of the oldest residents at JNH. “I certainly don’t feel like I am 102,” remarked Stanley, “especially when I’m around a woman like Cheryl Gumlaw.” Added Stanley with a grin, “I can’t help it. I just love women!”

Born on December 12, 1919 in Chicopee, MA, Stanley attended elementary school at Saint Stanislaw in Chicopee and Chicopee High. From there, he received training in a machine shop and was also a canteen steward at the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression in Colorado. Not surprisingly, the store did very well under his management.

Stanley started working in the 1940’s at the Springfield Armory. He left to serve in the Army. Stanley shared an amusing story about his military recruitment. “I really wanted to go into the Navy,” admitted Stanley. “I actually went to meet with a representative, who told me that I was officially in the Army.” With great surprise I replied, “Sir, I am Army? I’m supposed to be Navy.” So as fate will have it, Stanley joined the Army, which he now feels was a good move since it allowed him to return to his job at the Armory.

For over 30 years, Stanley worked as a gauge maker and inspector at the Armory. As he explained, “Being a gauge maker involves anything that you touch, that requires no tolerance. It was very detailed work.” Stanley remarked that he wouldn’t be able to do the job today. “Now my eyes are shot! And I can’t hear, I have hearing aids,” he said with a good-natured laugh. Stanley explained that it usually takes several years to become a gauge maker. But he was very lucky, he went to evening school to study his trade and he was also trained in his shop by long-time workers. There were only 5 or 6 gauge makers and he feels lucky to have been trained by the “old timers.”

Stanley also worked for John Guerin, a Canadian-born gun designer who invented the M1 Garand rifle. From a historical aspect, these rifles, manufactured from 1941-1945, are the rifles that fought in the jungles of the Pacific and that stormed the beaches of Normandy and eventually invaded Germany. One could say that Stanley played an important part in American history by helping manufacture and repair these iconic Garand rifles. Stanley noted that many of the guns General Patton praised so highly were made by women. During the WWII years, over 40 percent of the Springfield Armory’s workforce, which peaked at 13,500, was female. Drawn from a wide range of racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds, the women worked an average of 56 hours a week, producing and assembling the M1’s. Many included notes of encouragement with the finished guns, such as “Dear son, give ‘em hell, love Mom.”

Stanley and his wife Jane were married for 40 blissful years. Jane worked as a hairdresser while raising their two daughters Darlene and Deanna. Stanley adores Deanna’s two children, Tawnya who lives in New Jersey and Bryan who lives in Westford, MA as well as his four great grandchildren, Alexander, Elyse, Samantha, and Cora.

An incredible athlete, Stanley played softball, basketball, and golf. He was also an expert candlepin bowler. His bowling team, appropriately called “Stanley’s Steamers,” frequently came in first place. Additionally, he was also a great dancer, with square dancing and polka dancing among his favorites. He recalls fondly how he and Jane taught his daughters to dance. Their favorite song was “Spanish Eyes ”by Engelbert Humperdinck.

When asked what words of wisdom he would share with young adults, Stanley was quick to respond. “Choose a job you like because you will probably do it for the rest of your life,” advised Stanley. Clearly, this sentiment is a reflection on the work ethic of Stanley’s generation.

At Leavitt Family Jewish Home, Stanley can be found playing games, cards, and bingo. In fact, he wins bingo quite often, and recently won four games in a row! But Stanley is a giver, not a taker, and ultimately, he wouldn’t accept the winnings. Perhaps his good nature and generous spirit are the real reasons for his longevity. “Stanley is loved by staff and residents alike,” commented Cheryl Gumlaw, Director of Life Enrichment at the Home. “He is always smiling and has a twinkle in his eyes. He makes us smile!”

Stanley, thank you for your caring nature and your service to our country. We look forward to celebrating your 103rd birthday with you this December!