When Art Stone was asked just a couple of weeks ago to be the grand marshal of the 2010 Rodeo Parade, he was overwhelmed.
“It was difficult to believe. And to represent all the military personnel — I don’t believe I’m worthy,” he said.
But Stone served in two branches of the service over the years and holds the rank of Air Force colonel.
The son of a career Navy man, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1943. His father was still serving and was stationed in the South Pacific when Stone completed his training, he was sent to the same theater.
He was an aviation radioman and combat air crewman, so he was assigned to the rear seat in a dive-bomber. His father was a Seabee and served on a destroyer. So, while they were in the same area, their only contact was a “hi-bye” passing type of thing.
Among Stone’s stations in the South Pacific were Taipei and Iwo Jima. He was shot down in 1945 and sent to the Bainbridge Naval Hospital in Maryland to recover. When he was released from the hospital he was assigned shore patrol duty in Baltimore and then went on to serve in Jacksonville, Fla., Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Norfolk, Va.
He transferred to the Air Force in 1949, just two years after it became a separate branch of the military. As a member of the U.S.A.F., Stone served in the Korean War. Afterward he was stationed at several bases in the U.S. and in Europe.
“I started out in law enforcement and security and then transferred into the intelligence area,” Stone said.
He retired from the service in 1967. His last duty station was Whiteman Air Force Base in Kansas.
While Stone retired from the military, he was not ready to stop working. He joined the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, in Wichita, Kan., which began a 20-year career in civilian law enforcement. From there he went into private security in Topeka, Kan.
He was tapped to head security for the Arizona Biltmore and when it was sold, the Westin hotel chain sent him to Florida where it was building a hotel to serve visitors to Disneyworld.
“Everyone went through the Disney Academy (while the hotel was being built),” he said.
He came back to Arizona in 1980 and did volunteer work for the attorney general’s office. Stone and his wife moved to the Rim Country in 1995 at the suggestion of one of their sons, who was living here at the time. They had considered retiring in Prescott and Flagstaff, but their son insisted Payson was the place for them. After a visit, they agreed, and he started looking around for a place for them. They didn’t want a big house, so their son found a space at the Star Vale Mobile Home Park.
“It was empty, but we went up and took it,” Stone said. They then visited Valley area companies that manufactured mobile homes and found one they liked and had it constructed for them and brought up the Star Valley.
Once the couple settled into their new home, it was time for Stone to get busy again. He volunteered with the Gila County Sheriff’s Posse and then became involved in helping start the Payson Police Volunteer program, serving as its coordinator.
Being a veteran — of two branches of the military and service in two wars — Stone also became very active in the American Legion and other military organizations in the area.
He and several other active veterans were approached in 2002 by the director of military funerals for Arizona to organize a formal military honor guard to serve all of northeast Arizona. The group is still active and has provided the appropriate honors at easily more than 100 funerals since it was formed.
Stone also worked as an investigator for the Gila County attorney; a Gila County probation officer; a probation officer for the Tonto Apache Tribe and served on the tribe’s gaming commission, which he now chairs.
His son has since moved from Payson to Colorado. The couple also has a son and granddaughter in Olathe, Kan., a daughter in California, and another granddaughter in Phoenix.
Stone will be in military dress as he “leads” the Ridin’ & Ropin’ Rodeo Parade, sponsored by APS and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce — actually he is No. 9 in the lineup. There are almost 60 entries in the parade, many with several different units, such as the El Zaribah Shrine group, in the No. 14 slot.
Ahead of him will be the Rim Country Museum fire truck; the Northern Arizona All Airborne, 82nd Airborne Division Association; the rescuers of Travis Mitchell, Wyman Kindall, Beth Kindall and Gary Chitwood; Kirkpatrick for Arizona; Bill Konopnicki, state representative; Gila County Supervisor Tommie Cline Martin; and Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.
Also appearing in the parade will be lots of royalty: Tonto Apache Tribal royalty, No. 10; Miss Rodeo Arizona Kasey Jo Painter, No. 13; Gila County rodeo queens, No. 17; Prescott Frontier Days royalty, No. 21; Gilbert Rodeo Days royalty, No. 36; Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo royalty, No. 37; Fiesta Days Rodeo royalty, No. 38; and Yuma Jaycees Silver Spur Rodeo royalty, No. 41.
The parade starts at 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 21 at Green Valley Park and will proceed east on Historic Main Street, ending at Sawmill Crossing.
Get out early to get a good spot and settle in for some old-fashioned fun.