Stanley Caulkins, a dean of Leesburg’s business community, a World War II airman, and a longtime civic leader, died January 12, 2018 at his home. He was 92.
Caulkins closed his business, Caulkins Jewelers, last summer after 61 years in operation following the death of his brother, Roger, and in recognition of his own health challenges. In the months that followed, he crossed items off his bucket list at a pace few nonagenarians would contemplate—hitting the firing range, touring the Loudoun countryside in a motorcycle sidecar, and taking flights over the county, among others—and hosted a constant stream of daily visitors and well-wishers at his home. Those visits continued until his final hours. One of the final thank yous for his service was delivered by Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk during last Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, knowing that he would be watching the session at home.
After serving as a radio operator aboard a B-17 during World War II, the GI bill helped Caulkins learn the watchmaking trade. He returned to Leesburg and went to work in a gift shop in the back of the Plasters clothing store at the corner of King and Market streets. When the former Flippo’s grocery store space came up for lease, he moved his shop a few doors down King Street, where he paid $250 a month in rent. Caulkins Jewelers operated in that space for decades, until a 2015 fire forced a move to the Virginia Village shopping center.
His civic activities included service on the Town Council—he was first elected in 1960 along with Frank Raflo and George Hammerly, a trio, Caulkins said, that was known as Leesubrg’s “Rat Pack.” That council hired the first town manager, Bob Sharp, in 1961.
He also is known for his life-long dedication to the town’s airport. He was a founding member of the Leesburg Airport Commission in 1962 and helped lead the push to build the first airport in east Leesburg with the help of radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey, who lived west of Leesburg on his Beacon Hill estate and who donated the land for the airport. Later, Caulkins helped establish the larger airport along Sycolin Road, where the terminal building today bears his name.
In an interview last June, Caulkins recalled some of those early efforts.
“[Godfrey] wanted to have an airport in town, so he could get back to New York City on Sunday nights in time for his morning show,” Caulkins said. But, as the town grew, the need for a larger site became evident. Godfrey allowed the town to sell the site, and the commissioners got a matching grant from the newly created Federal Aviation Agency to buy a larger tract along Sycolin Road.
“We built it—with blood, sweat and tears,” Caulkins recalled of what was, at the time, divisive effort.
“I saw it as an economic tool for the town, the county and the region,” he said—an accurate prediction of its future importance. “I was just a dumb watchmaker—but we built it.”
“Over the years, stopping into the store became a ritual for me, getting his wise counsel regarding the airport, and being endlessly entertained with the stories of how he and the other airport committee members built the field, and lost re-election because of it,” Boykin said. “But he knew it was the right thing to do.”
Rarely far from Caulkin’s side during his final year was Hugh Forsythe, who recently ended his own Town Council stint. He met Caulkins eight years ago at a Rotary Club of Leesburg meeting. Caulkins, a past president, had been a member since the 1960s.
“We became pretty close friends. He treated me with the greatest respect, being a two-star general,” Forsythe said. They cemented their friendship two years later, when they were both asked to participate in a local school’s Veteran’s Day ceremony.
It was Forsythe who pushed Caulkins last year to move home after health problems landed him in a rehabilitation center. Back with his two beloved cats, the backyard squirrels that he fed at a window and the visits of many friends, Caulkins found renewed energy.
“He didn’t know a stranger,” Forsythe said. One of his favorite visitors was Forsythe’s dog, Ellie, who would enjoy car rides with Caulkins as Forsythe shuttled his friends around to doctor’s appointments and other engagements. In his final hours, a lick of his hand from Ellie awoke Caulkins momentarily, who immediately recognized his four-legged friend.
“I had a special time with Stan,” Forsythe said. “I feel truly blessed to have gotten to know him.”
Services were held Saturday, Jan. 20 at Leesburg Community Church, 835 Lee Ave SW