The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 16, 2012

Mike Pound: At 75, man knows every nook and cranny in courthouse

CARTHAGE, Mo. — When I told Roy Stafford Jr. that my daughter, when she was younger, thought the Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage was a castle, he just smiled.

“I hear children say that all of the time,” he said.

Roy knows a thing or two about the castle that is the county courthouse. For the past 20 years, he has been the maintenance supervisor there. Before that, his father, Roy Stafford Sr., was in charge of the building’s maintenance from 1963 to 1980.

“I have a son also named Roy, and his son is named Roy. I joked that if I could convince my son to take over and then his son, we would have a Roy Stafford in the courthouse for 100 years,” Roy said with a chuckle.

Despite his long ties to the courthouse, Roy didn’t — as some folks think — grow up around the building. Roy joined the Air Force in 1956 and would only occasionally visit his dad at the courthouse when he was on leave. Roy retired from the Air Force in 1976. He spent a few years working for a Carthage company and also spent 10 years working for the school district. He also worked at the courthouse for a while in 1983, but it wasn’t until May 11, 1992, that Roy officially took over as maintenance supervisor.

Now 75, Roy handles maintenance at the county’s other buildings. Day-to-day responsibilities for the courthouse have been turned over to Jason Shryer.

Roy said people probably would be surprised to know how much work and time it takes to keep the courthouse, built in 1895, running.

“Just the overall daily maintenance required to allow the building to still be used for its designated purposes takes so much time,” he said.

That’s not to say the courthouse isn’t in good shape, he said. In many ways, the building is in excellent condition. The men who designed and built the courthouse saw to that. The building is solid and well-constructed. Few if any corners were cut during the construction.

The two most difficult things to stay on top of, Roy said, are the building’s heating and cooling system, and its electrical system. The courthouse originally was heated with coal and later with kerosene. Now the massive boiler in the basement runs on gas, and even that system has had its problems and has had to be updated. The reason the heating system had to be updated, Roy said, is because once, when he and a co-worker were trying to light the boiler, the heat box exploded and shot several feet across the basement.

That’s a sure sign that change is needed.

The electrical system has been reworked and replaced twice in the past 20 years.

Roy said there also have been many trips to the top of the courthouse to work on the large clock.

Roy said that despite the expense and manpower it takes to keep the building running, he can’t imagine a day when the building will no longer serve as the courthouse.

“It’s a beautiful building, and it’s my personal opinion that it (the work to keep it running) is worth it,” he said.

The most impressive thing about the courthouse to Roy is the amount of work that must have gone into its construction. The fact that it was built before the use of computers and power tools is even more impressive, he said.

“I’m 75, and it still amazes me how they did it,” he said.

On the last day of August, the Stafford run at the courthouse will come to an end when Roy officially retires. A reception to honor Roy will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23, in the Division 4 courtroom.

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