Editor meets a new friend, Joseph B. Stahl

By: Susan W. Smith

Volume 17, Issue 9, September 2022

Over the past 14 years as editor of Thousand Islands Life, I have had the privilege to meet some amazing Thousand Islanders. Some live here year-round, others are snowbirds, and some I meet along the way.

Joseph B. Stahl is one of those I just met along the way. It started when Stahl sent a comment on Rick Casali's August 2021 article, "Wild Goose - a 1915 40-foot Hutchinson Commuter."

I was intrigued by his comment and asked if he could give us some other memories of the Dodge family. He did. He not only sent his memories, but he sent some lovely hand-painted illustrations.

I immediately asked who the artist was, and he admitted he was the "guilty amateur." I also asked for a short bio, and that was when the lights went on. You see, I realized that this gentleman was someone that we should all meet through TI Life.

So, bear with me as I introduce Joseph B. "Joe" Stahl, born in 1936 in New Orleans. He is a retired maritime-death-and-injury lawyer, but as he puts it, "I masqueraded as an attorney at law for about 40 years until I retired in 2004."

Nevertheless, he managed to argue and win a maritime conflict-of-laws case, Hellenic Lines, Ltd. v. Rhoditis, in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970 and to have a profitable career representing maritime claimants in Louisiana federal and state courts.

His core interest was never in law, however, which he only practiced to earn a living. His real interests lay in painting pictures, in ancient and modern languages and literature and telling stories, in playing, writing and broadcasting about tennis, and in travel and living abroad.

He has sketched and painted hundreds of drawings and watercolors though he is untrained in art, and he describes his artistic self as "an amateur and a hack."

At university, he majored in Latin and ancient Greek. He minored in English literature, but since then, at different times he has achieved some fluency in Arabic, Turkish, modern Greek, French, Spanish and Italian, though, as he puts it, "I'm still struggling with English."

The Mauretania passenger ship painted by Joseph B. Stahl. 

He played on the U.S. amateur tennis circuit in 1959 and 1961-'63.

This last sentence made me smile as he went on to explain that he had "negligible success, but I still play regularly - to get some exercise and to have an opportunity to insult people—I can't be happy unless I'm hurting somebody's feelings."

As the Tennis World is front and center in the news, I was interested and learned that our Joseph B. Stahl played many practice sets in Milwaukee and Southampton, L.I. on the tennis circuit in 1962 with Arthur Ashe (who would go on to win the Wimbledon and U.S. Championships).  He told me he was able to win games but not sets from Arthur.

According to Stahl, "I'm trying to get into the Tennis Hall of Fame as the worst player in the history of the sport." He did win one trophy, a runner-up cup for being the finalist in a doubles tournament in Vermont in '62, but he says that was only because he had a great partner. Asked how he's playing tennis these days, Stahl says, "Worse than ever."

Stahl also had a career as a tennis writer and reporter for the New Orleans newspaper the Times-Picayune, as an editor and contributor for Tennis Week magazine in New York, and as a radio commentator at Wimbledon 1995-2008. He also served on the Voting Panel of the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. for 10 yes. (And yes, he even told me, "Everyone I blackballed got into the Hall anyway.")

For many years Stahl was a tireless traveler who visited and lived for varying lengths of time in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, California, Mexico, Jamaica, Nassau, Bermuda, England, France (where he lived for two years), Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, but he stopped traveling in 2008 and has confined himself to New Orleans since then.

Describing himself in 2022, Stahl says, "I'm 85, but I feel like I'm a hundred and fifty," and "I used to be alive, but this isn't it." Accused of being a curmudgeon and a smart-alec, Stahl readily admits to and even brags about it. As Stahl, a terrible misanthrope, himself says, "I don't have any friends, and I don't want any friends."

However, this editor is first to admit that his wish is not coming true as he has a new friend in the Thousand Islands. and I bet if he visits again, he will find more.

By Susan W. Smith, Editor, susansmith@thousandislandslife.com

Posted in: Volume 17, Issue 9, September 2022, People, Places, Essay

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