June 2010, Page 2 of 19
“A Viking For Good?”
According to Merriam-Webster Online, a Viking is a pirate Norsemen who plundered the coasts from the sea, but Captain Eric Stilwell, US Navy, works tosecure our maritime environment for the good of the Nation and the world
Eric Lee Stilwell
It was awfully early that 1979 winter morning, and I don’t remember how I knew that he neededhelp milking. But, the one thing I did know about “Uncle Luther” (Mr. Miller) was that he would bemilking those cows if he had to do it alone at the Normandy Dairy Barns. It was a night of foul winterweather. The frozen precipitation came down like ice ball barings. It started as sleet, as perfect roundsof ice, and continued all night topping off with about two inches of real snow some 12 or 15 inches later.Another thing of which I was certain was that Uncle Luther would walk all the way to the NormandyDairy to milk that Jersey herd on time. No one else could get up to the dairy from the main campus in afarm truck or any other conveyance. I must have called the dairy and found that he was there alone.Knowing him, he probably spent all night there.The details are sketchy thirty years later, but as I recall, I was theonly one who could make it through that weather in my half Dodge, half Ply-mouth, half green and half orange “farm mobile.” With all my personal toolsin the trunk for weight, and air shocks to lift it above the snow, it was perfect.I didn’t officially work for the Normandy Dairy, but I’d fixed a lot of pumpsand valves and farmed a lot of ground up there as needed. I usually workedbeef cattle, farming and farm shop down on campus near the feed mill spend-ing time visiting with Uncle Luther working for him anytime he needed my help. Heneeded my help that night, and I was most honored to serve.Ray Larsen and the beef cattle crew usually made fun of my little farm car, but itgot me through to the end of my Berry College experience and even towed my home (a 16foot travel trailer with all my earthly belongings) back to Florida. Then, that old car took me back to Jacksonville, Florida, where I raised my right hand and repeated, “I, Eric LeeStilwell, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the UnitedStates against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance tothe same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reser-vation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully dis-charge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” I finished myAnimal Science Degree at Berry College and was heading off for a new adventure.How did I ever end up at Berry College? Better asked, how did I ever launch myNavy career from Berry College? Well, I never thought I’d join the Navy, much less go to col-lege. In high school I didn’t think I had what it took to tackle either nor had I scant knowledgeof how big or accessible was the world. So, on a youthful dare, I left home to attend a twoyear, state supported agricultural college. They say that the good is the enemy of best, and bythe end of my first college year I had discovered that I needn’t settle for a good college whenthere was one great college that would provide for me my best future. I also learned in that first yearthat college was not quite the onerous task I feared nor was the world as smart, or as unreachable, as I had once con- jured. The world might be accessible to me, and Berry College was to be my best, and next,destiny.Learning of Berry College was an “alumni thing.” There is no end to the number of great programs for college outreach but without a doubt, firsthand, alumni experience face-to-face can’t be beat! I was living away from home attending that State college so my parentscame up for a visit in the first month. They were returning from a North Georgia campingtrip, but they didn’t come to me empty handed. They handed me a brochure about Berry Col-lege and Dad said, “You need to go here.” Dad and Mom had just left the tens of thousands of acres of Berry campus, and they wouldn’t stop gushing over it. “Where did this idea comefrom,” I asked my dad. He said, “Well, before Sunday school class, our Brevard County Ex-tension Agent told us about this place.” That county agent told Dad I just had to go to BerryCollege. Well, our county agent was none other than, Lowell Loadholtz (60C), arguably thebest, award winning recruiter for Berry College.
Eric Lee Stilwell