How #70 Became 70: A Tribute to the Linebacker of My Life

Today is a big day at our house. Stuart turns 70. We’ve been celebrating longer than usual and with more people than usual. So it was time to go back to the Box in the Basement to look for old photos.

This one jumped right out at both of us. You might say it was SERENDIPITOUS.

From the Broadway High School yearbook, class of 1963.

From the Broadway (VA) High School yearbook, class of 1963.

There he was, at age 16, wearing the oddly ironic #70, standing next to the #12 quarterback, whose message is scrawled in the corner. “You are a good linebacker,” said the quarterback.

Quarterbacks rely on the strength and size of linebackers. But good linebackers also need the vision and intelligence to see the whole field.

A linebacker with the name Stuart, meaning “keeper of the household,” brings extra qualities to the task.

According to my name book, “Stuart is not a man with his head in the clouds; he has a very practical side to his nature, and his need to be of service is coupled with a very down-to-earth assessment of his own

and other people’s

. . .  requirements and circumstances.”

Both Stuart’s name and his number have proved prophetic in our life together.

It started back in 1969 when he gave me his practice jersey, and I chose to take it with me to Nova Scotia on our honeymoon.

The practice jersey. I'm well past #63 now.

The practice jersey. I’m well past #63 now.

I hardly knew what a linebacker was as a young bride. But standing in front of friends and family yesterday, I held a cake with a #7 candle next to a #0 on top.

“Thank you, Stuart, for being the linebacker of my life.”

Who is/are the linebacker(s) of your life?

Shirley Showalter


  1. melodie davis on January 11, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Stuart Showalter a linebacker?? Well, you learn something new every day. Broadway High School is where I first learned to enjoy football games–not as a student of course (went to Bethany in Goshen, you may recall but other readers may not know)but as a band mother. I’m glad I know that football is more than “running all over and then falling on a little ball,” which is all my mother gets out of the game. 🙂

    I’m not surprised Stuart played football, but I think of him as a scholar and professor and a journalist. And I love you delving into the name “Stuart” as wife of another Stuart. He fits “not a man with his head in the clouds; he has a very practical side to his nature…” Right now, I feel more like his linebacker, as he’s going through some physical ailments and pains. But he’s definitely a pillar to line on, so that counts! I obviously enjoyed this on a number of levels. Best to you and congrats to Stuart on #70.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      It surprises a lot of our adult friends to know that Stuart was a football player in high school. So you are not alone, Melodie. He still enjoys watching the game on TV and has taught me a thing or two about strategy and position — how to see more than random running around.

      The name Stuart is not all that common, and often people spell it Stewart, so we have a bond with our choice of partners and thinking about the meaning of their names.

      Sorry that your Stuart is not feeling well. Physical ailments are part of getting older. We’ll all have to lean on each other.

  2. Marian Beaman on January 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    I knew you and I shared the same birthday week, but I didn’t know our husbands did also until today. You wrote a lovely tribute here and, judging from Facebook, apparently baked a cake for your true love too. There’s a lot of serendipity going on in your 2016 already.

    Cliff is my rock, steady in the boat, in our voyage together. But he’s also fanciful, writing poetry and making art for me, including a huge poster for my 70th. Websites that give name meanings usually describe Clifford as self-assured, independent, and confident. All true.

    Congratulations to Stuart on his 70th and to you for helping him celebrate!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 11, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      We’ll just have to call each other Dopplegangers, Marian and Cliff. I hope to meet Cliff some day but feel like I know him from your posts online. Glad you get to enjoy both steadiness and whimsey, an unusual combo.

      Thanks for your good wishes.

  3. Merril Smith on January 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    What a lovely post, Shirley! Happy 70th birthday to your husband!
    Finding that jersey with the 70 was indeed serendipitous.

    I don’t know anything about football or linebackers, but I’m glad your husband has been your ultimate linebacker. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on January 11, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you, Merril, and thanks for your generous shares on FB and Twitter.

      Yes, serendipity is all around us. If we could go back and imagine those numbers associated with age, probably the only grounding we would have had was the Beatles’ “When I’m 64.” Youth has such a hazy idea of age, either romanticizing it or fearing it.

      In reality, age just is. So happy to be able to celebrate in good health.

  4. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    I too have a linebacker in my life who has encouraged my endeavours and given me a listening ear when I need one. My husband (Hardy = strong and courageous) is six years older than I am, and although I know we all age differently, I can gauge what it might be like for me six years down the road by observing him. This helps me to be more patient and encouraging (patience is not one of my strong points. My dad told me once that I would be put into situations where I would need to learn it, and he was right. Life is a great teacher!) We are about to celebrate our 48th anniversary (January 13th)!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 11, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Congratulations, Elfrieda, on your impending, impressive, anniversary.

      And Hardy sounds hardy in many senses of that word. An unusual name, for, my guess, an unusually fine “linebacker.”

      Your dad’s wise counsel has stayed with you all these years–a sign that you were open to learning and that you have learned all these years.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Jim Bishop on January 11, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Anna and I appreciated the invite to your 70th birthday bash Sunday afternoon. Had there been opportunity, I would have taken it to give a public word of appreciation for Bro. Stuart Wesley Showalter and to note our long years of association. I realize that “Stu” has been a friend for more than 52 years, starting as freshmen at then EMC in 1963 and graduating in the class of 1967. We started working together the same time that summer at the former Mennonite Board of Missions in Elkhart, Ind., he as “adult editor” and me as “youth editor” with the Information Services department there. He left after about a year for graduate studies and I remained at MBM until the summer of 1971.

    Our senior year at EMC, I wrote a column for the school newspaper, the “Weather Vane.” I called it “The Bishop’s Mantle.” Stuart took his pen or pencil to my scrawlings – everything was hard copy then – as editor-in-chief of the paper. He was always gentle as he wielded the editorial scalpel. Many years later, in early 1990, I began writing a weekly column for the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record called “Bishop’s Mantle,” which I did every week for 21 years.

    Anna and I attended your wedding in 1969 in the chapel at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. What I remember was that I showed up embarrassed because we came directly there from Ocean City, NJ, and I had doused my fairly long hair with a product called “Sun In” while on the beach that turned my mane almost pure white!

    In 1970, Stuart was director of media relations at our alma mater and wanting to move into teaching at EMC. He was the first to contact me about the possibility of coming and taking his position so he could pursue that calling. I declined the offer at that time, happy and content in my work in Elkhart. A year later, I was contacted again – this time by Pres. Augsburger. It was a bit harder to say “no” to Myron, and so in July 1971 we packed our humble belongings into a ’71 VW Super Beetle and motored east. Stuart was the one who located the house in the then small subdivision of Belmont Estates that we moved into, first as renters and then as buyers, who nary a cent in our bank account to buy the place. Who would have dreamed that, 44 years later, we still abide in the same dwelling and labored in the EMU vineyard for 40 years, retiring in 2011?

    There were other connections along the pathway but the most important one remains – Stuart was one of among 5-6 persons over my career who would give me affirmations, verbally and/or written, on my work at EMU as well as my free-lance writing, especially my DN-R columns and another column I wrote for many years, “Virginia Ham,” for Mennonite Weekly Review. I appreciated then and now his words of encouragement that helped spur me on through the journalistic thicket.

    Bro. Stu, Happy 70th birthday. I beat you to this millstone, er, milestone, but you certainly helped get me there, my friend!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 11, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      Jim, thanks for adding this lovely revery to this post. I made a scrapbook for Stuart with the big 7-0 on the front and these photos inside. I’ll also print off this post to put in the scrapbook. So he can have your reflections for a long time.

      I told him I didn’t think I would make that three-layer cake from scratch again for his 80th. But if God grants us another decade, I know we’ll come back to this book and reread and remember.

      Your lives have crossed with ours in so many ways over such a long time. Thanks for taking time to weave all the nodes together. And may they continue.

  6. Laurie Buchanan on January 11, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Shirley — I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderful, tender, and loving tribute to Stuart. The supporting photographs you shared brought a huge smile to my face.

    happy, Happy, HAPPY birthday Stuart!

    Len is the linebacker in my life.

    • Shirley on January 11, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks, Laurie. That second photo was an afterthought. Didn’t I see a slide from 1969 with a football jersey?? I got out the projector and my newly-culled and organized slides. There it was! More serendipity.

  7. Elaine Mansfield on January 13, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Happy Birthday, Stuart. And thank you, Shirley. Such a heart-opening post. I love the meaningful photos and the meaning of the name Stuart/steward. Those young ones in the photos still live inside both of you, keeping the romance alive. Vic played football in high school and then rugby in college. I don’t know his football position, but he was the linebacker in my life. No surprise, eh?

  8. Shirley Showalter on January 13, 2016 at 11:35 am

    No surprise, Elaine, that you named Vic as the linebacker of your life. As the Green Man, he continues to back you.

    And the idea of the younger selves still present in our lives adds something new to this conversation. Birthdays remind us of how long the road behind us has been. These photos show us that even when that road was much shorter, we were there.

    So, whether the road ahead is short or long, we celebrate in the moment all that we have been as part of who we are.

    Your comments always lead to reflection, Elaine. Thank you.

  9. Carol Bodensteiner on January 14, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Many happy returns to Stuart and to you, Shirley. I love seeing the earlier-in-life pictures of you two. I wish you the best at the birthday gathering.

    My husband, David, is the linebacker in my life. He’s practical, handy, steady, and always there for me. “Beloved,” as his name suggests.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Carol, thanks for the good wishes.

      I hope to meet David sometime. Love the meaning of his name. Especially combined with the idea of being a linebacker.

      Beloved Linebacker. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

  10. Linda Gartz on January 14, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Shirley,
    Well, we share a lot in common. My husband just turned 70 last July, and you and I were born the same year. The photo of your then 16-year-old husband shows a confident, sweet guy beneath the tough gear. Yes, my husband, Bill, has also been the linebacker of my life. He’s backed me up for 50 years, been my greatest defender and supporter, a tough guy and a sweetheart blended together. We’re very lucky.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Lucky indeed, Linda. And how interesting that we are nearly twins twice. That description of confident and sweet under the tough exterior fits exactly.

      Greetings to Bill. Wouldn’t it be fun to meet in person some day?

  11. Tina Barbour on January 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Stuart! This is a beautiful tribute to your linebacker. Larry is definitely my linebacker. He didn’t play football in high school, though the coach tried to talk him into it because of his size. But he played basketball and baseball. We share a love of basketball, and I imagine Larry as my center. Blessings to you and Stuart, and may you enjoy many more birthdays together.

  12. Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Hi, Tina. So good to see you here again. Larry sounds like he both backs you up and gets under the basket for the long pass.

    It’s been too long since I visited your blog. Will go check it out.

    All best to you in 2016 also.

  13. Marylin Warner on January 14, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Hey, #63, you are definitely not an Old Woman And The Sea, then or now. 😉

    The point guard in my life was a h.s. and college basketball player (and tennis player, where Love begins everything) turned 71 last summer. These wonderful men we married started strong and have gotten better with age.

    Excellent post, Shirley.

  14. Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Ha. Loved that comment, Marylin. I enjoy visiting the sea but I’m a landlubber married to a linebacker. 🙂

    Stuart and I played a lot of tennis during grad school. We enjoyed saying “all is Love” as we started our games.

    You are another friend whose husband is almost the same age. Funny how we find the ones we need.

    Birds of a feather. . .

  15. Sherrey Meyer on January 15, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Happy birthday, Stuart. Bob also sends birthday greetings. I will turn 70 next month. Quite an auspicious occasion it seems for your 70th with some serendipitous moments along the way.

    Shirley, I think you know it goes without saying Bob is my linebacker. The only football playing he did was with his brothers at home, but he was a good cross-country runner. I suppose that explains his ability to keep up with me. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on January 15, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks, Sherrey. Stuart has been enjoying these comments — and has met some of these other linebackers along the way. Don’t think he would ever go out for cross-country, however. Glad it prepared Bob to keep up with you.

      Happy 70th birthday to you also a month from now. You are in the advance guard of the Baby Boom. Many blessings.

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