March 2, 1953 – Jan. 13, 2018
Paula J. Stockman, chairwoman of the Cattaraugus County Legislature, died unexpectedly Saturday in her home in South Dayton. She was 64.
The longtime village clerk in South Dayton and a Republican, last year she became the second woman to head the Legislature.
Her death surprised county lawmakers.
“She seemed to be in very good health,” Majority Leader Donna Vickman, a Farmersville Republican, told the Olean Times-Herald. “This caught me unaware. It’s shocking.”
State Sen. Catherine Young, R-Olean described Mrs. Stockman as “a no-nonsense straight shooter who was always direct and expected the same from you. At the same time, she was an extremely nice person who cared deeply about the people she served and this region.”
Born in the Allegany County village of Cuba, the former Paula Kruger was the oldest of four children and grew up in Friendship. She was a 1971 graduate of Friendship Central High School, where she was class treasurer. She earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Fredonia, studying abroad for a semester in France. After graduating, she was a substitute math teacher in the Friendship schools.
A South Dayton resident since 1979, she became village clerk in the early 1990s.
"The previous clerk left," her daughter, Kendra, said, "and the mayor called her up and asked her if she would do it."
She continued to hold the post at the time of her death. She also served as village treasurer and tax collector.
A personal invitation also led to her appointment to the Legislature in 2010 to succeed Crystal Abers of South Dayton, the first woman chairman of the Legislature, after Abers was named head of county’s Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism.
"Crystal Abers called her and asked her if she would complete her term," Kendra said.
Mrs. Stockman won election that November to fill Abers’ unexpired term, then was unopposed for re-election to four-year terms in 2011 and 2015. She headed the Legislature’s Strategic Planning Committee before she was elected chairman.
She was able to keep up with her village duties, her daughter said, because the positions were part-time.
"If anybody needed anything," she said, "they would just come to her house."
A musician since she was girl, at the age of 12 she began playing piano with her father’s big band, the Clubmen. She was organist at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and the First Baptist Church in Friendship. In high school, she was piano accompanist for the school chorus.
One of her father’s music students, Timmie J. Stockman, became her childhood sweetheart and they were married in 1975. They performed in local clubs for many years with their Little Big Band and played for special events at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Gowanda, where she was a member and church organist for 40 years.
When her children were young, she was a Girl Scout leader and assisted in the Boy Scouts. She was a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars auxiliaries and for 18 years was active with the Friendship Homecomers Association, a group that brings together people who care about the Village of Friendship.
In addition to her husband, survivors include a son, Troy; a daughter, Kendra; two sisters, Karen Farwell and Gail; a brother, Karl; and three grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 75 Center St., Gowanda.
Story topics: Cattaraugus County