Joel ‘Pete’ Stern
- Published: September 12, 2013
Joel “Pete” Stern of Westerville, Ohio, died at home Sept. 2, surrounded by friends and family. He was 92.
Joel was born Aug. 21, 1921, in Pittsburgh, Pa. to Lee and Etta Barnet Stern, Uniontown, Pa.
Joel graduated Uniontown High School in 1938, then enrolled at Antioch College. Following the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marine, serving as a radio operator, 1942–1945. With the war still on, he next enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After the war he resumed his studies, earning a bachelor of arts degree in business administration and political science from Antioch in 1948.
Following graduation, Joel worked in the family business, Stern Brothers Incorporated, in Parkersburg, where he became vice president. As a friend of Yellow Springs Instrument Company founder Hardy Trolander, Joel played a key role in Stern Brothers’ investments in YSI in the 1960s. He later returned to school, earning a master of library science degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1976. He then served for many years as a librarian in the Kanawha County Public Library system in West Virginia, where he retired as assistant director. Following the buyout of YSI, Joel became a substantial benefactor of Antioch College.
During World War II, Joel’s ship made anchor in Oran, Morocco, to deliver goods to the Allied campaign in North Africa. Coming down the gangplank he was astonished to be greeted by his brother, U.S. Army Captain Gates Stern, who managed Army port operations. Capt. Stern had noticed that his brother’s ship would call at Oran and made it a point to be there when Joel arrived. The two were overjoyed to reunite in the midst of war.
On Joel’s many convoys during the war, ships ran without lights to be less visible to attack. On duty on the evening of May 6, 1945, he saw the ships’ lights in his convoy come on one by one. “I knew this was something big,” he said. Germany had surrendered.
In 2005, Joel was in New York City for a performance by comic actress Dame Edna Everidge. When she called for a volunteer from the audience he admitted, “I was dying to be asked.” Joel hammed it up so energetically that Dame Edna had to tell him to “cool it.”
Joel is survived by son Roger Stern of Tulsa, Okla. and daughter Carla Stern McVey of San Francisco; his companion, Phyllis Beifuss of Westerville and formerly Yellow Springs; nephews Lee and David Stern of New York and Montefalcone, Italy; and “adopted daughters” Andi Stern and Carolyn Bernstein. He was a member of Temple B’Nai Israel in Parkersburg, W. Va., then Temple Beth Tikvah in Columbus, Ohio.