Life Lessons, is a 2019 project highlighting the life and times of Wisconsin Seventh-day Adventist Church members who are 90 years of age or older, and still actively serving and loving Jesus
Born in 1922, Stanley Sterling recalls living in the annex of the Seventh-day Adventist Sanitarium along Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. His parents, newly returned missionaries from Argentina, came to the Sanitarium for his mother to receive nurses’ training. While there Stanley recounts his parents urging his uncle Pete, who had health problems, to come to the Sanitarium and try their hydrotherapy treatments. But Pete staunchly refused, as the Sanitarium was run by Seventh-day Adventists, whose practices were to bizarre in his estimation. But after repeated failure to gain help elsewhere, Pete reluctantly came to the Sanitarium and went through their treatments. He was amazed when a short time later he found he was cured! From then on, whenever uncle Pete got another bout of trouble he would go to the Sanitarium.*
Bethel Academy and Lenore
Stanley attended Bethel Academy near Arpin, Wisconsin with about 100 other students. He remembers one day seeing a car pull up by the dorm as he headed to class. A lovely young lady climbed out of the back seat and Stan remembers thinking, “I’ve got to get acquainted with that gal!” And he did! Although the school didn’t allow dating, Stanley said, “We found ways to work it out.” The girls name was Lenore, and she worked for Mr. Cole, the Biology teacher, whose office was in the basement. “One time I went down to where she worked,” said Stanley. “She was over by the pencil sharpener, so I went over there and gave her a kiss. Low and behold, just as we were enticed, Mr. Cole came in.” Fortunately for Stanley and Lenore, Mr. Cole decided not to report the young couple. “You couldn’t do anything together back then,” said Stanley. “They were pretty fussy. Too Fussy.” Stan graduated from Bethel in 1941, and when Lenore finished a year later, the couple were married.
Stanley always wanted to be a dentist. He attended Emmanuel Missionary College (Andrews University) for pre-dental training, then to complete his training he chose a dental college in Lincoln, Nebraska, as they allowed him to have the seventh day, Sabbath, off duty. “It’s always best to follow the Lord’s teachings found in the Bible,” said Stanley.
In time Stanley and Lenore bought a house in Monona and soon had three little ones: Linda, Steve, and Lisa. Stanley found he enjoyed doing all aspects of the dental business, so he moved his practice to the basement of his home and became dentist, hygienist, assistant, and even had his own laboratory. “I tried to get to the level I could do everything that needed done in dental work,” he said. “Work was a real joy to me. I just liked it!” Ecclesiastes 3:13 NRSV says, “It is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.”
Not only did Stanley want to know everything about dentistry, he wanted to find a way to help people avoid getting cavities and needing dental work. He used his youngest daughter, Lisa, as an experiment and covered all her teeth with a sealant, so nothing could get into the tooth crevices. “It worked!” said Stanley. “Lisa hasn’t had a cavity to this day.”
After retiring at age 64, Stanley took up wood carving. “I think dentistry and wood carving kinda go together,” he said. “They both let me work with my hands.” Through the years Stanley has carved hundreds of deer, elk, loons, fish, elephants, roosters, cars and much more. Most of his carvings have been given away as gifts.
Stanley has enjoyed serving as an elder or head elder in his local Adventist church most of his life. At age 96, he still does a lot of reading, and much of that reading includes his Bible and Sabbath School Quarterly. “I’m picky about what I read,” said Stanley. “My books have to be clean and true. My counsel to younger people today is to live as clean as you can. It’s really important to live as clean a life as you can.”
The Blessed Hope
A few weeks prior to this interview, Stanley laid his 94-year-old wife, Lenore, to rest. “My favorite Bible text is John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept.'” said Stanley. “He wept, so I can weep, and I do since my dear wife died.” Stanley takes great strength and peace in the blessed hope found in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 & 16.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we, who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Juanita Edge, Communication Director