James “PJ” Stanley was a man “who always had his city in mind.”
As a man who wore “many hats” for the city of Claremont, Stanley strived to protect, save and fight for the lives of his fellow citizen – all sacrifices that friends, family and colleagues are remembering today.
On Wednesday night, Stanley died from complications during his short fight with leukemia. He was 61.
“He was the most genuine, honest and caring person I knew in this area,” said Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick. “He was totally committed to his citizens here and totally committed to serving his fellow man. He would drop whatever he was doing to come help you and was active not only in the police department, but rescue and council as well.”
Stanley was a 30-year veteran of Claremont police department and rescue squad. Stanley also spent 28 years with Catawba County EMS and was a Claremont City Councilman since 1987.
His first responder colleagues said he was a strong advocate for emergency preparedness and safety.
“He could do anything and was a jack of all trades,” said Claremont Police Chief Gerald Tolbert. “He’s always willing to do for other people and was always doing things for people in the community.”
Tolbert said he’s worked with Stanley since joining the force in 1983. During their time together, Tolbert said Stanley was a large advocate for correctly displaying home addresses, among other things.
“He was a big promoter for making sure you had the right numbers on the front of your house so emergency responders can easily locate your home in an emergency,” Tolbert said.
In honor of Stanley, the city of Claremont asked all its residents on Wednesday to properly and prominently address their home for emergency personnel. Citizens can contact the Claremont police or fire department for signage options, Barrick said.
Friends and family say he had a passion for emergency services, something he spent his final days practicing.
Prior to passing away on Wednesday, Stanley was on the coast helping with clean-up efforts from Hurricane Irene. After returning to Catawba County after feeling ill, Stanley went to the doctor and was diagnosed with leukemia. A week later, he died from complications with the disease.
“It set on very quick. He was out helping people on the coast and then his health really declined after that,” Tolbert said.
As a city council member, Stanley’s emphasis on preparedness also shined through. Barrick said he was instrumental in initiating an emergency action plan in Claremont, which details emergency protocols in the case of a large-scale disaster or event.
“He also pushed very heavily for, and was instrumental in city of Claremont partnering with CodeRED system,” Barrick said, adding that the system provides resources to record and track emergency messages.
Stanley was also very active in Claremont’s safety council, making sure they were educated in relevant safety issues.
“He, on his own time, came in and taught CPR and basic first aid on public works crews so they could be adamantly trained,” Barrick said.
“Those are things that you wouldn’t normally see done.”
Glenn Morrison, the former mayor of Claremont, worked with Stanley throughout his 12 years as mayor. Stanley served as mayor pro-tem for most of Morrison’s terms.
“Some people are involved in one facet or another, but Stanley seemed like he was involved in everything. I don’t see how he had the time and energy to do it all,” Morrison said, adding that he and Stanley were members of the National League of Cities and rose to platinum level.
Morrison said Stanley also initiated a prescription pill take back program for Claremont, an initiative that has also been adopted by Catawba County.
But Stanley’s dedication to his city stretched outside of his profession as well.
Friends and colleagues said he was a handyman and helped out with construction and landscaping projects in the community.
“My daughter and her husband lives in Winston-Salem, and he did the ceiling work for them in their home,” Tolbert said. “He was always doing things like painting and carpentry on top of all the other things he did for the community.”
Receiving of Friends for Stanley is from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Family Life Center. The funeral is at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at 4 p.m.