BYNG — Every teacher has probably had at least one student of whom she can say “I learned move from her than she learned from me.”  Such was my case with Lana Wood Stone.

I did not learn of Lana’s death until Wayne Joplin called to tell me she had died May 20 of complications from heart trouble and diabetes.  He sent me a letter expressing his gratitude for having been a classmate of hers.  I’m including a portion of that letter which follows:

“I first met Lana when we were juniors at Byng High School.   We were elected as Song Leaders for our class.  She was a pretty girl and had a great voice.  She sang in a trio and a quartet with other girls from her class.  She, like her younger brother and sister, was raised by her grandparents out north of Byng.  I can remember her grandparents opening their home to a bunch of Byng kids for a party with refreshments of sugar cookies and Kool Aid. We listened to records and learned to do the “Bop” that night.

“Lana married Ozie Stone right after highschool.  They had three children, two boys and a girl.  She had several jobs, among them selling Avon and working at the Wewoka school system.  She always felt that she needed to look after her younger brother and sister.  However, Randy died in a car wreck not long after he graduated high school.  Her sister, Virginia, died of natural causes last year.

“Her life was not unlike that of many other people growing up in the late Fifties and early Sixties except that she had some health problems with diabetes, a major factor which caused her to lose her eyesight sometime in the late Eighties.  Being the person she was, she always looked at the bright side of everything.  When I expressed sorrow for her blindness, she informed me that it had its positive side.  ‘I can’t see to tell if my house is clean or dirty, so I don’t worry about it.’”

Lana’s blindness did not hinder her from living and from fulfilling her purpose in life.  She loved to sing and built her ministry of music.  She and her husband attended the Spring Indian Baptist Church where she was as active as she could be..  She experienced kidney failure and she had to be  \on dialysis; it was just another little inconvenience to her, and she kept on singing..  She received a kidney transplant and had to be on anti-rejection drugs, but she no longer had the inconvenience of dialysis, so that was a step up.    

Her husband died of cancer in 1999, and most people would have given up, but not Lana.  One of her sons moved back home to help her, and she continued to make her music tapes.  She called friends periodically just to see how they were doing.  She was always upbeat and trying to cheer people if she felt they had a need.  She loved to tell stories about her kids and grandkids, and she remained interested in Byng School. She didn’t get to come to many class reunions, but she always wanted a report.  If anyone was sick or having problems, she always put them on her prayer list. 

Lana called me about two weeks ago to see how we were doing and to brag about her latest granddaughter.  She laughed when I told her I’d be bringing the new baby some bananas.  She didn’t bother to tell me she had been in the hospital, just that she had a touch of pneumonia.

I received a call from the family last Monday saying she had passed away.  I wouldn’t have missed telling her goodbye for anything.  Lana Joyce Woods Stone, thanks for your friendship, music, and the sunshine you shared with everyone.

I was so glad Wayne called me about Lana’s death.   I learned  much from her and am so grateful to her.  She was in my English class and a library assistant the first year I taught, and she was one of those people who make life bearable for beginning teachers.  She was helpful and kind; she had a wide smile and a genuine love for the world and her fellowman.

Ouida Stokes was the school’s music teacher, and we decided we’d like to host a wedding shower for Lana when she married shortly after graduation;  Lana was pleased.

Shortly after graduation, Lana’s grandmother came by my house to tell me that there would be a wedding shower at her house and if Mrs. Stokes and I wanted to help, we were welcome. She did not speak English very well, but we managed to communicate, and the next day Ouida and I went out to the Woods’ home to make plans.

What Ouida and I had in mind was a typical “white” shower with dainty cakes, mints and punch as refreshments.  It didn’t take long to discover that the Indian idea of a bridal shower and ours were poles apart.  We suggested fancy sandwiches; they mentioned butchering a calf.  We talked about a punch bowl; they planned cases of soda pop and freezers of ice cream.  Finally we decided what portion of the shower we’d be responsible for and let them do the rest their way.

The result wasn’t elegant, but it was happy and warm with loving support offered the bridal pair from friends and relatives of all ages—from octogenarians to babes in arms.

Seating a housefull was simplicity itself.  They put wooden planks on stacked cement blocks, riser fashion.  Covered with colorful quilts and blanks, the risers seated more than 50 in a room I’d have sworn wouldn’t hold 25.

Thick roast beef sandwiches, made thicker by slices of onion and homemade pickles were served, along with tubs of cold pop and freezers of ice cream were self-serve.  The pastor of the church to which Lana and her family belonged gave a short speech in English about the privileges and responsibilities in establishing and maintaining a God-centered home.  

By unspoken agreement, the group began to sing hymns in Creek.  When one person decided a song had gone on long enough, he simply started another, his voice rising a little above the group. 

There were no accompanying instruments, no hymnals, no leader, but I have never seen a group enjoy themselves more than they.  Lana and Ozzie were then “showered” with gifts. Many were handmade, and were things any couple could keep as heirlooms. 

When the party was over (much later than ‘white’ showers), Lana thanked us for our small part in the festivities and said, “I know this wasn’t the kind of shower you had in mind.”  We hugged her and said truthfully that we had never enjoyed a bridal shower more, and the Indian way had ours bested.

From that time forward, I looked at “the Indian way” in many areas, and 15 years later when Title IV money became available to grantwriters I was able to suggest research into ways in which the Indian culture differs from our own and to suggest writing down stories and customs that are in danger of changing.  The result was five books on “the Indian way.”

I attended Spring Church early in the work on the Seminole-Creek tribes.  After the morning service, a young white man approached us and said “We’d like you to have lunch with us.”  As he talked I recognized a former Byng student, Ozie Stone.  In the camp house where we went for lunch we met Lana again.  She was a poised mature young woman, very proud of three children and of her husband who, she said, ‘knows more about Indian ways than I do.’

Like Wayne Joplin, I am so glad I had the privilege of knowing Lana.  She gave me insight in a culture different from my own, and she was responsible for enriching the life of everyone with whom she came into contact.


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