Major Stanley “Stan” Mead was born in Charlotte, Michigan, on May 7, 1954. During high school, he loved his motorcycle and working on cars. He wanted to become an engineer and knew he could not afford college on his own, so the Air Force ROTC program seemed like the best way for him to better himself. He entered the ROTC/Mechanical Engineering program at Michigan Tech University in 1972, and got his student pilot license in 1974, hoping to become a helicopter pilot. In June of 1973, while attending school, Stan married Lynn “Julia” Joppie, whom he had met during high school. Julia moved with Stan to MTU’s campus in the Upper Peninsula and worked as a waitress to help pay for their apartment.
In 1975, the end of the Vietnam War and the resulting influx of pilots returning home meant the Air Force would not need Stan to pursue becoming a helicopter pilot upon graduation. In May of 1976, he was commissioned and assigned to an intensive Air Force Institute of Technology Master’s program at Wright-Paterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Dayton, Ohio. There he was paired with a research partner, Captain Robert J. Morgan. At the end of this program in 1977, they presented their thesis, An Economic Analysis of a Government Sponsored Commercial Convertible Aircraft, at the Pentagon.
After Stan completed his Master’s Degree, the Meads were assigned to Pease AFB in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There, they had their first daughter, Julia Ann Mead, on March 4th, 1980. A mere month later they were stationed in the Azores, at Lajes Field. There had been a devastating earthquake that year, and Stan was part of the effort to rebuild. Julia was struck by the resilience of the human spirit she saw there. It was in the Azores that Stan became a volunteer fireman.
But it was at their following assignment, to Royal Air Force Base Bentwaters, in Suffolk, England that the family put down roots. Even though they knew it was temporary, they bought a house and made life-long friends. Julia also gave birth to their second daughter, Tina Louise Mead on May 13, 1983. England truly felt like home, and their time there was spoken of often in the years after they left.
The next assignment was to the Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland from 1985 to 1987. While stationed there Stan flew over the North Pole, a feat for which he received the Order of the Blue Nose certificate.
The family finally returned stateside in 1987, in order for Stan to attend the Air University Commanders College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. This is where Stan received his promotion to Major.
In December of 1987, while visiting family in Michigan, Stan was killed in a boating accident. His wife and daughters moved back to Michigan at the end of the school year. Julia (with the help of her Veterans Affairs survivor benefits) put herself through college, started a small business, and raised both the girls on her own.
Julia looks back at her time as a military wife and knows it was an ideal experience for her. She loved moving around and seeing different landscapes. She always preferred living off base and being immersed in the culture of the community. Even life in Maine and Alabama was very different from growing up as a farmer’s daughter in Michigan. Julia and her daughters are all proud of Stan and thankful for the experiences his service brought them.
We honor you, Stan Mead.