County loses 'National Treasure' Stump Weatherford
Last updated 1/16/2024 at 8:23pm
Everybody knew him as Stump, a nickname Stump Weatherford had in childhood. But for Lions Club International, he was also known "National Treasure."
Butch Campbell recalls giving the "National Treasure" name to Weatherford a few years ago at the Lions Camp for youth with disabilities. "Everybody laughed at it, but they knew it was true," Campbell said. "He wasn't just a local treasure, he was a national treasure."
L.E. "Stump" Weatherford died last week at the age of 77 after cancer. H e was a professional photographer and a well-known volunteer for not only the Orange Lions Club, but Lions International.
"Anytime you met a Lion and told them you were from Orange, they asked if you knew Stump," Campbell said.
The Lions Club is an international service and charity organization. Weatherford joined the local Lions in 1975 and served club president twice. He also held regional, state and national positions. He was an officer at the youth camp in Kerrville, Texas, where he spent hundreds of hours through the years volunteering to keep the camp in shape and helping to plan sessions.
After he was released from the hospital for cancer treatments in December, he was honored with a Lions dinner with dignitaries from all over coming to pay tribute to him and honor him with the prestigious Ambassador of Goodwill, the highest award.
Later in the month, the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, where he was a member for many years, named him "Citizen of the Year" for his contributions to the community.
"Stump was a true friend," said Gary Stelly, longtime owner of KOGT radio and chamber member. "He really lived his life by the Lions motto 'We Serve.'"
Stelly was a good friend of Weatherford, who also shot sports photographs for the KOGT website. "As a friend, he would offer to help. And if he couldn't, he would offer encouraging words."
Campbell, a longtime Lions member, said Stump was instrumental getting the group's annual charity carnival together every year. The carnival is one of the highlights of the community for decades. He said Weatherford would help with any chore needed and founded the booth that would sell snow cones and hot chocolate. He was also the club's photographer and liked to walk the grounds taking pictures of people and club members having fun.
Weatherford was originally from Athens, Texas, and he never hesitated to let you know it was the birthplace of the hamburger. He graduated from East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University Commerce, and moved to Orange in the 1970s to work at DuPont. His first wife passed away at an early age and he was a single father.
Photography became his profession and he was known for many local assignments and taking pictures of all kinds of events. In the days of film, if there was even slightest wrong look of a child, he would give the photograph to the parents at no charge with an apology.
In his later years, he married Dayle Gunn Weatherford, the widow of Buzzie Gunn of Gunn Studios, and they worked a photography business together. They were married for more than a decade after dating for several years. She survives him.
Weatherford had so many contributions to the work of Lions charities that they will probably never be fully recognized.
Every year in March, the Orange Lions Club goes to the Kerrville youth camp, set up for children with diabetes and other childhood disabilities. Campbell said Lions from all over the state came and loved to pick on Stump and he took it the teasing with a laugh.
One prank came from the local club when they went there earlier than Weatherford. Being an officer on the camp's board, Weatherford had a private room in the counselors quarters and didn't stay in the dormitory room with other Orange Lions.
He asked the local members to make sure his room was reserved. They went and moved the furniture, including the lamp, outside and set it up in a roadway with a sign "This is Stump's Room. Do Not Disturb." When he arrived, he laughed, and moved it all back.
Orange Lions also teased him at each meeting with a card game he devised called "Flim-Flam" played at every meeting in recent years. Weatherford couldn't clearly explain how the game was played, and members loved to ask him to tell the rules every time so they could laugh at his descriptions.
Weatherford's contributions to community life also included a big smile and a hug to every friend he ran across, and in Orange, everyone was his friend.