Obituary: Sylvia Stoddard
Sylvia Crowell Stoddard, 90-year-old author of “Sam Knew Them When,” died at Carson Healthcare on Veterans’ Day 1999. She lies buried in the Veterans section of Lone Mountain Cemetery.
By her instructions, there was no prior public notice and no service -simply an honor guard of the Veterans’ Memorial Association, with Rick James playing taps.
The following is a brief autobiographical sketch entitled “Landmarks” and dated August 1993:
“My roots in Carson City started in August 1866, with the arrival of my grandmother-to-be, Nellie, on Hank Monk’s stage from San Francisco with her new husband, Henry Rust Mighels, the Editor of the Carson Daily Appeal. Mighels died May 28, 1879, leaving Nellie with the Appeal, four children, and pregnant. She managed the paper, lost the new baby, and hired my grandfather-to-be, Samuel Post Davis, as Editor. They were married on the Fourth of July 1880 and had two daughters, the elder my mother, Lucy Davis Crowell. My father, Raymond Benson Crowell, left Lucy for a blonde in 1915. With my brother, Royal Davis Crowell and me to support, with little or no help from her relatives, she coped. She became a secretary for the Supreme Court of Nevada, serving there from 1919 until she retired in 1958. She was a lovely lady.
“I graduated from Carson High in 1926, the University of Nevada in 1930. My first job was a WPA project for the State Department of Education, helping to write a new course of study for Nevada High Schools. In 1935 I married Frederick John Blackburn, superintendent of the Zaca Mine in Alpine County, California. The mine petered out shortly, and so did the marriage. When war came, I enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps as a private, emerging as a major four years later, after serving at WAC Training Centers before being transferred to Washington DC. to help fight ‘the Battle of the Pentagon’. My last assignment there was as a statistician in the General Staff Headquarters under General Eisenhower.
“After the war, back to Carson City, and a second marriage, this time to James Van Sant Stoddard, which lasted until 1963, when a very independent Sylvia put in 25 years with the State Public Works Board before retiring at age 65, compulsatory at the time.
“I have enjoyed retirement especially my first 10 years which were spent sailing the seven seas in freighters around South America, the Orient, Australia and New Zealand, and the Micronesia Islands. Finally shore-bound, I enjoy my hobby of collecting cats – China, brass, wood, stuffed any and all sorts. They haven’t crowded me out of my home yet.”
Postscript: Two of Sylvia’s greatest lifetime thrills were yet to come. The first was the 1996 publication by Great Basin Press of her book. The second was her new acquaintance, rapidly developing into an extremely warm personal friendship with Professor Lawrence I. Berkove – a superb scholar at the University of Michigan who is fulfilling her fondest hopes by creating for Sam Davis the world-wide attention and recognition he so richly deserves.
Sylvia is survived by her nephew, Royal Davis Crowell, Jr., with two stepsons, and by her niece, Judith Crowell Maynor, with a son and daughter. But she herself lives on directly in two ways. Her friends remember her as a charming and elegant lady with a delightfully earthy sense of humor and an infectious joy of living. And “Sam Knew Them When” continues in print.