A Labor of Love


 When Rudy Stakeman and his brother John returned home to Northern Vigo County after fighting in World War II, their parents were living on a new property with few amenities, but a lot of potential.

There was no electricity when the Stakeman’s first moved in, but there were some impressive oak trees in the backyard beyond the pond, which came to good use as Rudy, John, their father, and two other men acted upon the property’s potential. 

“We decided in the summer that my dad needed more buildings,” said Stakeman. “So we built a three-car garage, and we built this barn.”

Rudy returned home in December 1945, and the concrete was poured in the barn in August 1, 1946. From that day, until the Stakemans sold the property in the late 1950s, the structure was a place to call home for Rudy, his six siblings, and their growing families. 

Three of Rudy’s five children returned to the property with their father Sunday, and were greeted with a welcome sense of nostalgia.  

“It just brings back gobs of memories,” said Ethel Thomas, Stakeman’s eldest daughter. “I can remember my grandma had chickens, she loved chickens, and gathering the eggs with the chickens.”

And while the family’s old home is no longer there, plenty of landmarks, like the barn, remain and allow the Stakeman’s to be transported in their minds back to the days of their childhood.

“It’s like time has not passed,” said Thomas. “You look at it and think, ‘oh it’s still there, the dam is still there, the sassafras tree is still there’.”

Stakeman says the visit was more for his kids than him…

“I think it means more to them than it does to me,” said Stakeman. “This is where some of them spent some of their childhood, out playing in the barn.”

But when listening to him speak about the creation of the barn, it’s clear that this structure means a lot to him as well.

“I wouldn’t call it hard labor, I’d call it a labor of love, that we did for Mom and Dad,” said Stakeman. “It’s not a real labor, I don’t think…it’s more of a labor that families share…true families.”

Ethel Thomas says if there’s one message for people to get from this story, it’s to ask your parents questions about their past, because the family history Rudy has shared with her and her siblings is something she will cherish for the rest of her life. 

One piece of history he shared Sunday was that his sister, Grace, was one of the first air evacuation nurses in the United States. She too served in World War II. 

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