The "Autobiography"

of Arthur Donald Stadem

(Feb. 22, 1922-Jan. 9, 1947)

On February 22, 1922 I was born to Alfred and Bergit Stadem on a farm located four miles north and one mile west from Bryant, So. Dakota. I was baptised and later confirmed in the Lutheran faith.

The eight years of grammar school were attended two and one half miles distant; transportation was offered by our two sturdy legs and at times more luxuriously by a horse or muile and buggy. Bible Vacation School was attended every summer season as regularly as grammar school.

For High School training I was also privileged to attend Augustana Academy as my older sisters had. Thinking back on those years of activity I have many plesant memories. A high point was to be with the choir on three concert tours. The joys of bringing a message in song to many audiences (Radioland included), of making new acquaintances at every stop, of viewing scenic country together with a bus-load of enthusiastic youngsters, is just indescribable to one who hasn't experienced the same.

The two summers of '39 and '40 preceding graduation, I worked with William Svanoe in Waterloo, Iowa, landscaping, gardening and tree trimming. The next season when asked if I wouldn't take over the truck and equipment, I was rather baffled, for how could I satisfy customerts who were accustomed to the service of an experienced horticulturalist? Mustering up courage and trusting that the experience of the previous summers would serve me well, I worked harder than ever to do my work satisfactorily.

Never to my knowledge did a customer voice complaint. The experience has taught me that by God's help and grace we can accomplish things which may seem impossible at the onset.

Due to seasonal work it was necessary to discontinue landscape work in November, and other employment was sought. A job was secured at the Rath Packing Company in the meat curing department. During these months of work also the possibilities of more schooling were thought of a great deal, and finally after discussing and planning, two pals and I decided to attend Wartburg College under the Government program providing we could meet all the requirements.

Preliminary tests and enrollment were taken care of with the promise that the remaining paper work and tests would be dealt with shortly and we could settle down to a peaceful school year.

The last of October I took a physical exam in Des Moines and was told that my eyes did not test 20-20 (which was a program requirement). I asked if my eyes would also keep me out of the Navy? To this day I don't know if the question was fully answered but after spending over 3 years in a blue suit I realize that I could see plenty but maybe lacked foresight!

"Boot Training" was taken at Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon completion of the five weeks, I was designated as the only individual from our company of 100 plus to attend Sonar Operators School at Key West, Florida.

It was quite a new adventure for at that date the secrets of the advancements in Sonar were limited to but a few responsible persons. In five short weeks we were graduated to be sent out as operators of sonar equipment. On Feb. 29, 1943 I went aboard a Fast Marine Transport at San Francisco destined for Pearl Harbor. Little did I know then that I would be boarding the U.S.S. Pyrope, and there spend the next 22 months. And possibly less was the ship's former peacetime owner, Howard Hughes, aware that his pleasure ship would thus be converted to wartime duty!

My duties were as afore-indicated as Sonar Operator and later through necessity acted as Technician when the equipment failed to operate correctly.

Life aboard ship had its moments of interest as well as educational effects, but to repeat this experience would be, to say mildly, distasteful.

What a happy surprise it was to come back to Pearl Harbor, not having seen land for 22 days, and find there orders awaiting me stating that I was to report to West Coast School for a refresher course following a 30 day leave!

The baggage that was necessarily carried by the individual (mine neared 100 pounds) seemed light even though carried down and up many decks by steep ladders and through small hatches; for wasn't every move bringing us nearer home?

When the U.S.S. Republic, former President Grant, passed under the Golden Gate Bridge there arose a resounding cheer from the three thousand strong; sailor, soldier, or marine, those well or injured alike joined in the cheer with mutual feeling. Hard to believe, but true, this is our beloved home-land!

As ours is a large family I had many places to spend thirty short days, but of course I chose to go Home. First of all, it was a joy just to be home amongst loved ones. Also in finding things much the same, despite improvements, as when I left, gave satisfaction.

Too, the little things enjoyed at home that can't be found anywhere else in the world seems a lot; for instance, Mother's cooking and no Reveille blasts in the mornings.

The Refresher Course at San Diego sped by quickly and soon I surmised another ship would be made my home for the duration or more. To the contrary I was fortunate to receive an additional three months course in Sonar Maintenance.

Beginning with elementary radio physics we received a condensed study of the equipment and practical experience in the maintenance of the same.

San Francisco was again my destination to await further assignment. While there a leave of 20 days was granted and eagerly accepted.

My next assignment was to the U.S.S. Harwood (D.D. 861). This being a new ship I experienced the full routine of putting a ship through "shakedown" and commision. It was a time of testing for both crew and ship to see if it was a fighting unit which rated being in Uncle Sam's Navy.

About this time the startling good news of Japan's Capitulation and the point system so soon adopted brought other thoughts and wishes to the foreground. Reality was coming into view when we boarded a troop train Christmas Day, noon, at San Pedro, California, for our respective separation centers.

New Years Day brought reality when I clutched that paper tightly and started for home--A CIVILIAN.

What then? Oh, I'm enjoying life as other fortunate people as a tiller of the soil and planning for some schooling I've missed.--Arthur Donald Stadem


Significant Dates of Arthur's life from his Autobiography written for applying for the Fall Semester at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD:

*Arthur Stadem entered Augustana Academy at Canton, Sept. 1937; he graduated May 1941; Sept. 1942 he entered Wartburg College, where his schooling was interrupted by a call into the Navy, October 30, 1942. He served 3 years, 2 months in the Navy, terminated Jan. 1, 1946 as Sound Man Second Class. Fall Semester 1947 he entered Augustana College, where he was a student in good standing scholastically and in every other respect as a student and Christian until he died Jan. 9, 1947, aged 27. It was a brief Christian life, lived well.

Some additional information: Arthur's home was the home place and farm of his beloved parents in rural South Dakota. It was the only home he ever knew, as he was born there in the house on a wintry day, in the midst of a most beautiful icestorm. He grew up there, working at chores, and doing all the things necessary his parents commanded and expected of him, and of course attending the Sunday School and church services at the Bryant Lutheran church regularly, week after week, year after year. To liven up the farm schedule, there were some times at the lake, fishing and going to camp fellowship meetings. It was a satisfying life to him, as he did not become restless, nor did he rebell and stray on his own into town to seek other interests and amusements. Did he ever see a movie at the movie theater in town? Probably not, as his father permitted no one in his family to go to the theater. Nor was there any ballroom dancing! Or playing pool in the town's pool hall!

Dating? Not likely during their teen years! Yet there were good times elsewhere, apparently, and he enjoyed them in his spare time when not doing chores and homework.

Though not normally a "talkative Stadem," he was not a loner, but spent considerable time with regular attendance at church and participation in various church youth activities, and of course in the Navy was constantly in the company of other navymen.

He was known to be prudent in his spending habits and to save money, not spend it on drink or cigarettes or gambling games or on even worse vices in port cities, so the other navymen would borrow money from him, but paid it back, as he was respected as a moral young man and Christian.

He does not mention the spiritual aspect in his Autobiography, but apparently he was a quiet witness of his faith in Jesus, and it may have grown in strength. He had found he needed to trust in the Lord for grace and mercy to do his work in supervising the equipment and trucks for William Svanoe in a responsible new position in William Svanoe's landscaping business.

He may have learned he could trust God for other things that seemed impossible too, as that had first seemed. There are group pictures of Arthur's company of sailors--and they appear a rough and tumble bunch that the officers probably were hard put to control at times (which explains why Arthur described ship life with one word, "distasteful" and left it at that).

No doubt he had to listen to profane talk, dirty jokes, and constant swearing and the like, which must have been a hard for him to bear and tested his own endurance.

His life did not seem to go backwards at any point. He was always progressing, not easily, but with consistent hard work and diligence and by trusting God for his success and protection. He clearly had better than average abilities that would gain him the training in sonar operation for the Navy, but he did not seem to think himself better than others for that fact.

A young nephew, Darrell Ginther, received a letter from his uncle, Arthur, that shows that he cared for his nephew. Arthur took his family ties seriously, obviously, even caring for his nephews. He loved his parents dearly, which clearly showed when he used his hard-saved earnings in the Navy to buy over 100 acres to add to his folks' small holding of 70 acres or so.

His personal spiritual walk with the Lord is testified by evidence, such as his underlining scriptures in his New Testament which he carried about no doubt and read at various times. His spiritual talks with his roommate also testify to his faith. He was very earnest about it, clearly, and could speak to an assurance of his salvation when asked by his Uncle Carl.

His prevailing sweet spirit, and fine moral character, and the loving way he dealt with his parents and his friends and church, all testify.

There is not one word of criticism of him that can be found, nor did he do anything that reflected on his Christian upbringing and convictions. Evidently, he lived consistently and willingly what he believed a Christian ought to be, according to the Bible and his training in the Church. He was deeply loved, by his parents, family, and friends, and was sorely missed, while it was understood it was God's will for him to be taken so young.

What about his salvation? His roommate wrote to Alfred and Bergit at the time of the funeral and testified that Arthur was most serious about God and they had enjoyed a number of spiritual discussions together. His aunt Cora Stadem Taylor writes recently (in 2009) that she and her husband Carl spoke to him when he was at Augustana College.

New Tribes Missionary Carl Taylor, Art's uncle, asked him pointedly, whether if he died that night was he assured he would go to heaven?

Yes, he was assured he would, he answered Uncle Carl Taylor.

Within days he would be gone from this life, so we all know that Arthur, truthful as he was, did not hesitate to declare he was trusting in the Lord for his salvation and was assured in his heart of his right standing with God.

It wasn't his Baptismal Covenant he trusted in, he trusted in the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, shed for him on the Cross for the remission of all his sins. We know this is true, because nothing less can give full assurance of salvation, for if depending on anything else a person is left forever wondering if he is "good enough" or has done more good than bad in the weighing eyes of God our Judge-- an impossible situation for peace to abide in.

Some more skeptical will still not believe that Art, a baptized, confirmed and catechized Lutheran all his life, knew the way of salvation. They will ask, was it his own goodness or his baptismal covenant he was trusting to save him, by being obedient to it? Or was it a truly saved, born-again regeneration that Jesus described to Nicodemus that was his true grounds for believing he was saved and going to heaven?

We are fortunately given these evidences to set the record straight. His father Alfred Stadem wrote about the spiritual conditions of both Art and Bob in Feb. 1947, just after the funerals and described Bob's own prayer to the Lord based on Bob's deep conviction while reading I Peter 3:10. "The morning Bob and Art went out to fly, Bob took out his Testament and related to the ones there in Sioux Falls how a verse in I Peter 3:10, "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile" had convicted him and after reading this asked God to take all filthiness out of his mouth and to use it for Him and that is just what God did."

Alfred Stadem continues: "Going through Arthur's little New Testament we have been reading some of his favorite verses that he had underlined and this one who also his room mate wrote us yesterday saying this verse seems to be the thought that Art's passing had left him and is 2 Tim. 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day, and not to me only, but also to all them that love His appearing." Art's room mate said he loved Art as a roommate and they had grown to love each other. We felt there must have been something that would prompt him to give $15 [a large sum in 1947, equivalent to $100 at least in 2009, which must have been sacrificial to a money-strapped college student!] to the Augustana Academy fund in memory of Art. He said also they became brothers from the beginning, where ever one went the other went. He had thanked God that he had him for a room mate and a better one he would never find. They often discussed their christian faith and their interest in the church seemed to be the same." It is, indeed, very sad that this roommate had to experience the sudden death of his dear friend, who had become a brother to him, but no doubt the memory of his friend was a choice one for many years of his life to come, helping to keep and encourage him to walk close to God. Truly, they are now united as friends forever in heaven, so the sadness passed and became the joy of reunion and fellowship in heaven.

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