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Navy veteran, arts patron honored with flagpole dedication

Greensburg Daily News - 9/19/2017

Sept. 19--GREENSBURG -- The lazy sunshine of a late summer morning peeked out from behind the clouds just as as an American flag was pulled to the top of a newly-installed flag pole stationed outside the former Greensburg Wesleyan Church.

The three local armed forces veterans who unfolded the flag and helped hoist it to its permanent spot atop the pole, stepped back and saluted "Old Glory" as she waved slightly in a gentle breeze. Other onlookers took a moment to do the same as they stood silently in moments of reverence of reflection.

It was a scene not unlike what David Stults might have experienced on a given morning, possibly aboard ship, throughout more than 27 years in the navy.

But this time, it wasn't only for God and country.

It was for him.

"I think he'd be so proud," said Stults' longtime friend, Darylene Blancett. "But he wouldn't let you know."

One year to the day since his passing at the age of 77, Stults was honored by family and friends at a special ceremony held outside a facility he longed to see come to fruition. That so much of a fuss was made about him as the performing arts center continues to take shape likely wouldn't have been all that appealing for Stults, who preferred to credit others for their work rather than seeking recognition for his own.

But those who were close to him know that somewhere deep down inside, he probably would have been smiling.

"I think he would be honored, but he never liked the spotlight," said Dani Drysdale, Stults' grand-niece. "He was always giving to others, helping others, always putting others before himself."

That was a universal sentiment shared by all who knew Stults, whose sometimes gruff exterior masked a heart that beat, seemingly, only to help others.

"I thought about what Dave would want me to say this morning, and he would say, 'nothing,' because that's how Dave was," recalled longtime friend David Fry. "He didn't really look for a lot of attention."

The Jennings County native spent almost three decades in uniform, serving on a nuclear submarine and eventually reaching the rank of commander. That experience undoubtedly contributed to the tireless work ethic that led Stults to become involved in numerous local organizations after he settled in Westport in the late 1980s.

He ran a small machine repair shop, had a big hand in creating a club dedicated to a unique automobile, served with the Community Foundation and Arts and Cultural Council, and worked on a slew of Tree County Players productions.

That local theatre group's new performance arts center stands as a testament to the work of Stults and so many others who wished so long for a permanent performing venue. Now those involved today as well as those who worked with Stults on plays and musicals in years past can remember him every time they look outside and see the nation's flag billowing in the breeze.

"It will be nice knowing I can always come back here and remember him," remarked Drysdale. "He was a wonderful person and role model."

For Fry, Stults was a best friend and a parental figure, particularly after the passing of Fry's parents.

Serving on boards together it didn't take long for Fry and Stults to realize their lines of thinking gelled in many ways. Able to give and receive advice Stults, though not afraid to make his opinion known, was always willing to take into account the thoughts of others.

Fry humorously recalled that Stults' go-to phrase for ideas he didn't agree with was, "I guess I never thought of it in that way."

Hearing those words meant the career navy serviceman probably wasn't going to change his mind.

Even so, there was a gentleness beneath the surface that Stults' friends, family and colleagues saw shining through in every mischievous smile and in every kind action. Stults was usually the first to show up to help at a given event and often the last to leave.

North Vernon classmate Don Polly, who maintained a friendship with Stults for more than 60 years, saw plenty of that dedication in his friend throughout the years.

Joking that he had to outrun a hurricane, Polly drove all the way from Naples, Florida to attend Saturday's ceremony. He summed up his dear friend in an acronym: PRIDE.

Polly said that word, to him, stands for "Personal Responsibility in Daily Efforts."

"That was the motto that Dave exemplified," said Polly. "I am so proud to call him my friend."

Polly also honored Stults by playing "Anchors Aweigh," the navy's march song (and the Naval Academy's fight song) on trumpet. He followed it up with a rendition of "Amazing Grace."

After the kind words had been spoken and the memories shared, three members of the American Legion unfurled an American flag and maneuvered it into place with a few twists, turns and pulls. They stepped back and saluted skyward as the sunshine of what turned out to be a beautiful summer day cast its light over the former site of the church for the first time that morning.

It was, perhaps, a sign from above from a man who never tired of working to better his community, even as he battled for years the cancer that would ultimately take his life.

How smoothly the acquisition of the new playhouse was and how other important community improvement activities have recently come into place, in Fry's view, is something that could best be chalked up to divine intervention.

In any case, they think the stern-but-kindhearted Stults still has a hand in making the community he loved a better place. After all, that's the credo by which he lived.

Fry recalled that Navy servicemen and servicewomen commit themselves to "excellence and the fair treatment of all" when they join the armed forces. Those dedicated sailors tend to carry that navy motto with them forever.

Stults was no different in that regard, even though his friends and loved ones remember him fondly as one of a kind.

"I think that's how Dave lived his life," said Fry. "And I was proud to know him."

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; brent.brown@greensburgdailynews.com

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(c)2017 the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.)

Visit the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.) at www.greensburgdailynews.com

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