"Harry left this life the way he wanted to be remembered," said his longtime friend and fellow archer Mike Carvelli at a story-telling memorial held on Monday evening.
Harold A. Staebell Jr., 66, died on the morning of Good Friday, after repeated bouts with coronary and circulatory ills. Despite his painful months since early last fall, he told his friend Carvelli, his wife, Mary, and many others that he wanted to have others enjoy rather than mourn his passing.
That's what took place at the Amigone Funeral Home in Cheektowaga on Monday, as family and friends packed the parlor area for an hour of humorous and heart-rending recollections of a guy who did everything for everybody that showed even a passing interest in bow shooting.
A disciple of the late Leo Baldwin and Helen Little, proprietors of Leo's Archery Range in Depew, he married Helen's daughter, Mary, and the two became archery assistants to every level of shooter from the youngest of kids who could hold out a bow to avid elders who wanted to get into archery shooting and hunting.
Harry and Mary ran Leo's Archery in Depew and later in East Aurora for more than 25 years. They serviced many popular brand names (Hoyt, Matthews, etc.) but the duo was best known for the numbers of youths that visited the range regularly to participate in Junior Olympics Archery Development (JOAD) activities.
JOAD archery team members often went on to compete as Olympic Team trial members. Several took local, state and national championships. Harry rarely mentioned it, but he holds two New York State Indoors Masters records for over-60 archers.
Like Baldwin, his mentor and friend, Harry took a low-key approach to teaching archery skills. His instruction was often laced with good-spirited humor and pure enjoyment, rather than the rigors of classroom-style instruction.
A concrete finisher by trade, Harry was a mechanical whiz. His familiarity with products and the physics of engineering archery gear continually impressed the most experienced and active of archery addicts.
Dave Barus, a versatile handyman and mechanic himself, said of Harry, "Whenever I couldn't get my bow to shoot properly and I'd tried everything possible, I would just take it to Harry and he would have it fixed in no time -- and usually with a grin and a good story."
Good stories and fellowship abounded when Baldwin gathered his circle of friends at the ranges in Depew and East Aurora. Staebell and Baldwin hunted with bows in Allegany County when not tending the range.
Outdoor readers may not have learned of the passing of another close friend to Baldwin, Staebell and all who enjoyed hunting and fishing in Western New York.
On September 22, Bob Brown, 61, died of heart and cancer complications. Brown had suffered heart problems since age 40. He and his wife, Pat, operated the Redwood Ranch at Bemus Point on Chautauqua Lake for decades.
Brown and Baldwin were friends to the end and, like Staebell, they left legions of admirers who had visited their business establishments, as much for outdoors gear as for the depth of their knowledge of the sport and the warmth of their personalities.
Pat Brown continues to operate the Redwood Ranch. The tackle shop has been sold to Happy Hooker Bait & Tackle in Ashville.
The JOAD program Harry and Mary Staebell so ardently conducted continues at West Falls Conservation Society through the efforts of Bob and Eileen Pfeil, Barry McCaskey and other WFCS members.
The West Falls club will hold a Memorial-Benefit Shoot for Harry and Mary Staebell on club grounds at 55 Bridge St. May 4-6. All levels of age and bow skill can participate in this fundraiser for two people, the West Falls club officials said, "have done so much for the sport of archery."
For directions and details, call 864-3583 or 941-9393.
Harry will be missed, but his good humor and love for his fellow archers will remain on the range.