- January 25, 2023
The Leaders in Our Neighborhood articles have not been as frequent in 2018 as in previous years, largely because of increased responsibilities in other areas (see “County Hall Corner”), but I felt a year-end feature was called for. And in keeping with the end of year mood, it seemed appropriate to announce my choice for
The Leaders in Our Neighborhood articles have not been as frequent in 2018 as in previous years, largely because of increased responsibilities in other areas (see “County Hall Corner”), but I felt a year-end feature was called for. And in keeping with the end of year mood, it seemed appropriate to announce my choice for LION of the Year. This person is the most extraordinary person I have ever known — my wife, Debbie Stout.
Now, I am sure that there might be some who might suggest there is a hint of partiality in my selection, so please bear with me as I justify this honor that I wish to bestow upon her. Let us start with her profession of nursing. Debbie has worked as a registered nurse since the age of 20, after spending her teenage years as a candy striper and then a nurses aide. She will retire next year after 45 years in the profession. In the course of those decades, Debbie has worked in every field of medicine — from ER, OB, surgery, pediatrics, med/surg, hospice, and now for the past twelve years as a Home Care Nurse for Geisinger Home Health. In all this time, she has resisted going into management because of her dedication to patient care. Even during our time on the mission field in the 1990s-2000s, she worked to found a children’s rehabilitation center for children with cerebral palsy that became a model for the former Soviet Union. Debbie’s skills were sought after when the US Embassy opened in Riga, Latvia, and she earned her a Presidential Citation from President Bush for her work there.
Debbie and I raised three extraordinary children, and when they were grown and departed while we were living in Latvia, her eye lighted on an orphan 9-year-old Russian girl named Olya. I knew what she was thinking and tried to talk her out of it, but eventually, I yielded. Since that time, Olya has become so much a part of our family, that some twenty years on I now say that I have four children, one is adopted, but I can’t remember which one.
Debbie would love to spend time with her nine grandchildren, but unfortunately, they are scattered all over the United States, so six years ago she created a special event just for them. It is called Stout Summer Camp, and she spends the entire year planning and designing a special event during the Fourth of July holiday for the grandkids with a spiritual theme for them to learn but also with games and activities designed exactly toward their interests. Debbie takes being a grandmother to a whole new level.
She is also a tireless volunteer for activities with our home church, Citychurch in Williamsport. She teaches Sunday School, is a core member of the Prayer Team, teaches a ladies Bible study, counsels young women with problems as needed, bakes cookies for the weekly Sunday morning cafe, and in general, does just about anything she can to bless others. Her only complaint is that she wishes she could do more.
But there is more — her concern for military veterans, for example. The US Marine guards at the US Embassy in Riga almost considered her a mother; she got so attached to them. Almost all were looking forward to serving in Iraq after their embassy duties were fulfilled, and Debbie would hug each one when they were leaving and make them promise they would not get injured. Since our return to the States, she has looked for ways of helping veterans. In the past few years, she and another woman from church, Lyn Echols, have worked tirelessly to help area combat vets who suffer from PTSD find the help they need.
For all this and much, much more, Debbie deserves recognition. But perhaps she deserves the highest praise simply for putting up with me as a husband for the past 44 years. I sincerely doubt any other woman on the planet could have handled the wild ride that I have put her through for going on half a century. She is truly a Leader in Our Neighborhood — and the best friend and life companion any person could ever imagine.