Stanley James Armsey
Stanley James Armsey, 94, died peacefully on June 21, 2019, the day of the summer solstice, at the Valle Verde Senior Living Community in Santa Barbara, California where he had been in residence for the past four years.
Born December 20, 1924, to James Walter Armsey and Irene Josephine Stanley, he grew up in and around Decatur, Illinois where he was known from his earliest days as a spirited and adventurous youngster. Stanley was the oldest of three children, the other two being his sisters Betty Jean Geer (1926-1996) and Cornelia “Connie” Mitch (1928-2015).
Stanley’s mother passed away when he was only 12 years old, but true to his generous, supportive and take charge nature Stanley stepped forward without hesitation and took on major family responsibilities, including part time jobs after school and on weekends to help with family finances, an impressive feat for a teenage boy in the 1930’s when the country was only slowly emerging from the massive unemployment of the Great Depression.
Two weeks before Stanley’s 17th birthday, the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor took place. Like so many patriotic young men at the time, Stanley rushed to the nearest military recruiting office to volunteer for duty, only to be told that he was not old enough, and that he should come back in a year. Stanley did exactly that and within days of his 18th birthday found himself on a train full of soldiers-to-be headed for boot camp in California.
As a Marine, Stanley’s natural enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to rise rapidly in rank and to become an expert at managing complex provisioning assignments. His unit was slated to rotate into the Pacific combat theater when two days before their scheduled departure, the Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1945 (August 15 in Japan).
After finishing his tour of duty, Stanley decided to stay in California. As the family anchor, Stanley sponsored his aging father and both of his sisters to migrate west as well.
In the late 1940’s, Stanley visited many coastal communities but was instantly and permanently enthralled by Santa Barbara and within a short period of time had taken up residence in the town that would be his home for the rest of his life.
Stanley was married four times, but it was his second marriage in 1948 to Joan Marie Krodinger (1924-1983) that resulted in his only children, a son Steven James (1951- ) and a daughter Pamela Marie (1954- ). Even after the end of his marriage to Joan, Stanley remained a devoted and nurturing father to his children. Stanley and his children always enjoyed as many birthdays, holidays, vacations, and other get-togethers as possible, with each and every occasion being full of warmth and fond memories.
Stanley tried his hand at many professions, but in Santa Barbara in the 1950’s he was widely known as the manager of Leed’s Shoe Store on State Street. He was an amazingly successful shoe salesman, perhaps in no small part due to his movie-star good looks which were said to be legendary, more than a few women in those days openly admitting that they went shoe shopping just to catch a glimpse of “Stanley Sinatra” — a nickname he garnered due to his thin build and physical resemblance to the legendary singer Frank Sinatra.
Stanley also took turns at selling cars, selling furniture and selling insurance, but it was during the go-go economic years of the 1970’s that Stanley was drawn to Real Estate and very soon after getting his agent’s license, became a broker with Merrill Lynch Realty. The rest was history as they say, with Stanley regularly taking home salesman of the month and salesman of the year honors in both the Santa Barbara and Ventura territories.
Realizing that he had found his calling, Stanley diversified into every aspect of real estate. Whether on the trail of a good deal for his clients or for himself, Stanley was a true dynamo, almost never slowing down as he dashed from task to task. This earned him another of his nicknames, “Energizer Man.”
Stanley made sure to stage open houses every Saturday and Sunday for more than twenty years, in order to meet prospective clients, in particular first time home buyers. He was relentless in helping his clients find a pace to call home.
Stanley was always on the lookout for a real estate deal, and was quite adept at finding fixer-uppers and flipping them for a nice gain as well as holding on to some properties that could generate rental income. At one time or another Stanley owned all or part of various houses, condos and apartment buildings throughout Southern California, as well as a few in Arizona and Florida, and even owned a mobile home park in Fresno, a commercial orange grove in Visalia, and a lumber mill in Oregon.
Stanley also made his mark in the field of Real Estate Law when he found himself in a legal dispute that was eventually decided by the California Court of Appeals. The dispute involved a parcel of land Stanley owned at 1600 State Street in Santa Barbara. Stanley sold the lot and a weathered structure located there to a fellow real estate man. A short while later the structure burned down. Subsequently, the buyer defaulted on his payments, and Stanley reclaimed the property by foreclosure. That resulted in a disagreement about whether the buyer still owed money to Stanley under the terms of the original sale. After many years in court, where Stanley was represented by noted Santa Barbara attorney Scott B. Campbell, a ruling in Stanley’s favor not only saw him retain the property and get paid, but established some technical legal principles regarding the relationship between the owner of an all-inclusive deed of trust and a foreclosure beneficiary. The ruling can be found at Armsey v. Channel Associates, Inc., Docket No. B016014, Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Six (August 21, 1986).
Deciding to rebuild at that choice corner lot took Stanley into the world of real estate development and architectural design where he once again showed amazing natural talent. The structure that now stands at 1600 State Street is a direct result of Stanley’s guidance and vision and is considered to be a stellar example of the “Santa Barbara Look” which, of course, makes it a fitting and enduring monument to Stanley and his many talents.
In addition to working 24/7, Stanley’s primary desire was to provide inspiration and assistance to his many friends and acquaintances. Stanley was one of the most generous men imaginable, but one who believed firmly in the “teach a man to fish” philosophy. One example is how he shared his knowledge of fixer uppers with some employees at his mobile home park, a gardener and a maintenance man, and showed them how to acquire old dilapidated mobile homes for little or no cash, and then refurbish them, and sell them for a tidy profit. Stanley quietly and without fanfare made gifts or loans to countless individuals, and was also a contributor to many local charities, in particular his favorite, the Salvation Army (note the similarity of initials, he would say) where he was a member of the Hope Brigade.
Although Stanley did at one time or another attend race car driving school, take flying lessons, ride to the top of the Empire State Building, see Big Ben in London, go fishing in Scotland, visit Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, ride his mountain bike all around Santa Barbara county, and take more than a few California wine tours, his recreational excursions were usually momentary diversions that eventually found him back at his favorite endeavor, managing his real estate operations.
Stanley is survived by his son Steven and Steven’s wife Norma, his daughter Pamela and Pamela’s daughter Ami along with Ami’s husband Eric McCall and their two children (Stanley’s great-grand children), Madison and Ian, as well as Stanley’s long time associate and companion, Julie Gruel.
Stanley was a true original, a great representative of the self-made man, and a proud citizen of Santa Barbara, but he has chosen to have his ashes interred at a family plot next to his mother in Newton, Illinois.
Before the departure of his remains, a celebration of Stanley’s life will take place on Saturday July 13, 2019 in Serra Hall at the Old Mission Santa Barbara. Proceedings will begin at 1:00 PM. Anyone who knew or worked with him is invited to attend and share joyful memories of Stanley James Armsey. Those unable to attend are invited to make a donation in Stanley’s name to the Salvation Army.