ORANGE- Richard Douglas Stone (“Dick”), 89, of Athol, died at home on April 18, 2020 from congestive heart failure.
He was born in 1930 to Herbert Stone, of Halifax, VT, and Sabra (Ball) Stone, of Gardner, MA. For over twenty years, Dick sold insurance for Prudential Insurance Company. He won the Agent of the Month award on three occasions and in 1983 was inducted into the Prudential Northeastern Academy of Honor. Despite his high sales volume, he insisted to family that he never offered a policy to anyone unless he genuinely believed it was in the best interest of that person. In the 1950s, he also began growing Christmas trees: he operated West Brook Christmas Tree Farm continuously until 2010, at which time he began prepping his son to take over. His last year working in the fields was 2017, but he remained a vital part of all farm operations and management right up until his passing.
Outside of work, Dick enjoyed hunting, trapshooting, and raising beagles and bird dogs. In trapshooting, he won dozens of championships between the 1960s and 1990s, including the Massachusetts state title in 1972, and the equinox of that 1972 title performance was when he broke a record 198 straight targets without a miss. He painstakingly loaded all of his own shells by hand, but ironically after winning the state title he was endorsed by Winchester Ammunition Co. and flown to England along with a small group of other elite state champions, competing with the best trapshooters in Great Britain.
In the early 2000s, spinal stenosis and an irreparable shoulder injury made it impossible for him to continue using a shotgun. Still longing to trek in the woods with dogs, he turned to the sport of beagling, winning numerous ribbons and trophies until his last victory in fall of 2019. His most prized beagle, an American Kennel Club large pack field champion named Maravic’s Blue Barbie, won over 30 awards including the United States national championship for 13” female in 2005.
For many years, he sang and acted in the Athol-Orange Minstrel Show, where he was known for his powerful voice, broad vocal range, lovable onstage charisma, tremendous improvisations, and ability to carry a tune. He worked frequently and had a great friendship with Malcolm Hall, who dedicated the signature song “Keep Love in Your Heart” to him, saying “To Dick Stone, the man with the big voice who sings so well.” In the 1960s, a talent agent from New York tried to recruit him to perform off Broadway, but he chose to instead remain in Athol, get married, and continue singing publicly in local charity venues.
Raised on a dairy farm in Orange in the Depression, he found a way to establish himself as a successful businessman in a wide variety of endeavors including not only farm-related and insurance, but also catering, landscaping, and kenneling among others. While in his later years he owned many dogs, in earlier days Dick also raised rabbits, cows, and other animals.
Dick was a champion of the underdog, going above and beyond to provide opportunities to those less fortunate than him to learn and grow. He was a great mentor to many. Profoundly intelligent and creative in his methods of farming, business, and living, he was a person of tremendous comical abilities, and a highly entertaining storyteller.
He leaves behind daughter Amy Stone, son Ethan Stone and daughter-in-law Kelly; grandchildren Isaiah and Lydia Stone; ex-wife and good friend Sally Stone; sister, Marguerite Butler; long-time partner and wonderful friend, Kay Johnson; and numerous other close family and friends. A private family burial service will be held.
After the corona virus pandemic has lifted, family and friends will gather to celebrate and remember his life. Meanwhile, the family extends sincere gratitude to all those who ever offered Dick friendship or a helping hand and hopes you will come forward, when it is safe, so they can thank you personally.
Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is assisting the family.
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