Sophia Stearns is one of five grandchildren of Artie and Ginny Stearns.  All of those grandkids were born after Artie died in 1987.  But while they never met him, they all feel like they knew him because of Artie's growing legacy kept strong through the AFS Memorial Fund.  Take a moment to read Sophia's thoughts. These words certainly represent the thoughts of her sisters Lillian and Victoria and of her cousins Ian and Julia.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Arthur F. Stearns Memorial Fund

"Who I am, because of a man I never knew"

Sophia Stearns College Essay 2017

"How can someone you’ve never met shape your life so much? Every day when I wake up to the hand-crafted archway leading into my room I am reminded that every day is a gift that should not be taken for granted. As I walk down the hallway and into my living room I see the beautiful fireplace that was built by hand, stone by stone, by a man who possessed a clear talent. Approaching the kitchen looking straight into my backyard I gaze at a pool that I have made so many memories in, knowing that would not have been possible if my Papa did not take the time and effort to make it perfect. As I walk around in a house full of so many memories I am reminded of the man who started it all. These reminders are what get me through my day. I do not just need to walk around my house to sense that this man I never was able to meet will always be with me. Pulling out of my steep driveway it’s hard to avoid the two stone walls that he artfully crafted. Just like him, they will always be there. As I drive around my town I see different works of art built by my Papa that still stand to this day and prove to me how much of an impact he made throughout my community. Although my Papa is always with me and I am reminded of him every day, my heart still aches when I think of how I was robbed the opportunity to ever truly get to know him.

Friday, August 14th, 1987 was a night that changed my life though I wasn't born until twelve years later. I’m sure the seventeen-year-old drunk driver who took my Papa’s life had no idea that his decisions would shape me into the person I am today. Waking up in the house that my Papa built with his own two hands and hearing stories about his legacy have shown me the man he was; the man who I work to be like every day. It is up to me, Artie’s granddaughter, to tell his story by doing my best to let his legacy live on. The talent demonstrated by Artie in my house and in my town is something that I try to mimic every day with a passion. I aspire to be as talented and generous as I know my Papa was.

This is who I am today, because of him; I am someone who is passionate about my work ethic, driven by my mistakes, and conscious of the needs of others. Artie’s story is part of the reason why I find myself sitting at weekly SADD meetings, where we spread awareness about accidents like these. I relay the message about how the decisions we make can influence others more than we could ever know. This reason is why I push myself every year since I was born to participate in the Arthur French Stearns memorial fundraising golf tournament where I’ve learned that when tragedy strikes, the story goes on. I allow myself to listen to the heartache in my Dad’s voice as he relives the night Artie was taken away from us. This tournament allows me to give back to families in need and help them feel a little less forgotten about while helping me to experience the joy of giving back like Artie did.

Who I am today is to the credit of Artie, his story, and my extremely supportive family. I will continue to let his legacy live on. His morals and selflessness is what others should put foremost in their lives. Everywhere I go from when I walk down with my cap and gown on until the day I die I will be living in remembrance of the man who everyone should aspire to be".

Sophia Stearns