Sunday, 14 April 2024

Sydney Campbell Stokes

Sydney Stokes. Courtesy photo.

Sydney Campbell Stokes
June 14, 1946 — Feb. 5, 2024

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Sydney Campbell Stokes passed away in a San Francisco hospital on Feb. 5, 2024, following surgery due to complications from multiple myeloma, a cancer that he had dealt with for many years.

Syd was a fifth generation Lake County resident and a longtime member of the Lake County farming community.

He was born in Lakeport but spent his early years in Southern California. He returned to Kelseyville in 1955 and attended Kelseyville Schools from the fifth grade on, graduating from Kelseyville High School in 1964. He was a natural athlete and played all of the team sports, serving as quarterback for the football team, pitcher for the baseball team, and he even won events in high jumping.

Following high school he attended Santa Rosa Junior College. In 1967 he enlisted in the Marine Corps reserves. After serving a short stint of active duty, he found a job as a load planner with United Airlines in San Francisco. He worked for United until 1971. During that time he obtained his private pilot’s license, then took aviation courses at College of San Mateo and soon obtained a commercial pilot’s license.

While still working at United Airlines, Syd enrolled at San Jose State University. In 1973 he graduated with a B.S. degree in criminal justice. After experimenting with jobs like commercial crab fishing in Alaska and running lettuce harvesting crews in the San Joaquin Valley, Syd returned to Lake County to farm Stokes Orchards with his father, Russell Stokes.

By 1977 he had branched out on his own and was managing a 63 acre pear orchard, which he purchased the following year. He also began leasing other orchards.

Following the sudden death of his father in an auto accident at the end of 1977, Syd assumed management of the family orchards as well.

After many years of farming pears, Syd decided in 1997 to turn his 63 acre pear orchard into a vineyard of sauvignon blanc wine grapes. It was a wise decision. The vineyard performed well and Syd maintained a contract with Kendall-Jackson Winery until he sold the vineyard in 2012 and retired.

Syd held many positions in the farming industry. He served on the board of directors for Mt. Konocti Growers for 18 years, the last two as president. He also served six years on the board of the California Canning Pear Association and twelve years on the California Pear Advisory Board.

In 1981 Syd reconnected with an old classmate of his, Diane Henderson. They had never dated in high school. Each of them had ended up in unsuccessful marriages with other people, but upon meeting again they realized how much they had in common with their upbringing, their parents and grandparents being friends, their mutual interest in flying, farming, the outdoors, and their goals.

Diane moved back home to Kelseyville to help farm her own family’s orchards in 1982 and they were married at the end of the year. Last November they celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary.

When they were not busy farming, Syd and Diane enjoyed fishing trips, hiking on their mountain property with their dogs, boating with friends on the lake and playing golf. Syd was also a lifelong sports fan, following the SF Giants, the SF 49ers, the Golden State Warriors and the Stanford Women’s basketball teams. After his retirement he joined a fantasy football league and had fun competing with his friends.

Syd was a kind and gentle person who enjoyed helping others and hearing about their lives. He will be remembered for his delightful understated wit that kept his friends amused. Diane loved the original metaphors that he could come up with. Syd also loved animals and was devoted to his little dog buddies.

Syd was predeceased by his father, Frederick Russell Stokes; his mother, Ruth Ann Harding; and his sisters, Sheryl Stokes Sourelis, Martha Stokes Panella and Sheila Bowthorpe.

He is survived by his wife, Diane Lee Henderson; his stepmother, Janice Telonicher Stokes; his sisters, Laura Margaret Stokes (Amy) and Sylvia Bettencourt McKee; and his brothers, Peter Russell Stokes (Heather), Victor Joseph McKee and John Christopher McKee (Grace). In addition he leaves behind numerous nephews, nieces, great nephews, great nieces and cousins.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 23, at the Kelseyville Cemetery. Following the service, family and friends are invited to gather for refreshments and reminiscing at The Ripe Choice Farm located at 2550 Soda Bay Road.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Martha Stokes Panella Scholarship Fund, which benefits students of Kelseyville High School, or donate to a charity of your choice. To donate to the fund, send a check made out to “The Martha Stokes Panella Memorial Fund” and mail it to Strong Financial, P.O. Box 670, Lakeport, CA 95453.

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