Paul Donald Stoops, husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend and nearly 40-year member of the Wood River Valley community, died early on Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, 2020.
He was born in Kittanning, Pa., on Feb. 27, 1953, to Rosmer Glenn Stoops and Ethel Edna Stoops (Elder). His older siblings—Glenn, Ann and Harry—were as surprised by his arrival as his parents (who’d finished having children more than eight years prior) following an infamous family camping trip to Canyon Lake in Arizona. The baby of the family, Paul was adored and learned to love adventure and travel early on. He especially enjoyed exploring this country by car. His parents moved to Scotia, N.Y., when he was 5. He attended Pashley Elementary and graduated from Burnt Hills Ballston Lake High School in 1971.
He was accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy a month before his father died. Though headed to Colorado for college, he started dating Cheryl Lee Buell in June that year. In 1972, despite being on the dean’s and commandant’s lists at the Air Force Academy, as well as facing protests from his superiors about requesting (and receiving) an honorable discharge, Paul, a “lover not a fighter” (in his words), moved back to Scotia to be close to family and his no-longer-long-distance girlfriend and to enroll at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, during which time he bought his beloved 1973 VW Type 181 “Thing,” which he tried to float (unsuccessfully) across the Hudson River. He completed his B.S. in biology at RPI in 1975 and accepted an assistantship in graduate biology at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
On June 6 of that year, he proposed to Cheryl at Guanella Pass in Colorado because the elevation was 11,670 feet and he wanted to pop the question when she was the highest she’d ever been. They married June 5, 1976, and rode off on his Honda Trail 90, much to the chagrin of Cheryl’s parents.
Before he completed his graduate work in biology, Paul transferred to the architectural engineering program at the University of Wyoming and completed a second B.S. in 1979 before moving to Cheyenne to work in that field. While in Wyoming, Paul and Cheryl spent their time camping, rock climbing and skiing. Paul certified as an EMT and moonlighted with the ski patrol at Medicine Bow ski area for six years. In 1981 and again in 1983, they welcomed two sons before moving to Hailey, Idaho, when Paul took a job as a science researcher/writer for Health Data. When that startup shuttered 10 months later, Paul returned to architectural engineering, and in 1988, after earning his own PE stamp, he went out on his own as an electrical engineer and architectural lighting designer. His designs are in countless (and many award-winning) homes and attractions around the mountain West.
It’s hard to find a person in the valley who doesn’t know Paul, and it’s impossible to find one who didn’t like him. Over the years, he was a member of Rotary and volunteered with Boy Scouts (was awarded the Silver Beaver for exceptional character and distinguished service) and youth leadership and session at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood. If there was music, there’d be Paul. He played trombone in small ensembles as well as in the pit orchestras for a number of musicals. He sang whenever he could, most recently with the Caritas Chorale, singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Sun Valley Ice Show, and he was a founding member and brother for A Few Good Men. For nearly 15 years, he was Jinx in his favorite musical Forever Plaid (Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Cry!).
Through hard times and celebrations, Paul lived an example of humility, charity, humor, wonder and kindness. He always put his family first, and he lived to see both his sons start families of their own. He died surrounded by love, laughter and family.
He is survived by his wife, Cheryl; his sons, Lee and Layne; his grandchildren Brighton, Landon, Brylee, Keller, Graylan and Myles; and his siblings, Glenn, Ann and Harry. He was preceded in death by his parents and his granddaughter Bennett.
Paul’s celebration of life will be at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood (100 Saddle Road, Ketchum, Idaho) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8. Per his wishes, there’ll be a party and time to share stories, laughs and songs following.