In the oldest military treatise in the world, “The Art of War,” soldiers are instructed to always take the high ground.
Such a rule is useful in both military strategy and in leading an ethical life. Ralph Standbrook, a 23-year military man, lived by that key Army rule, said his son Ralph, nicknamed Tyler, at his father's funeral Saturday.
About 100 friends and family, including many local officials, attended the memorial service for the former chairman of the Cayuga County Legislature and ex-mayor of Fair Haven. Standbrook headed the county Legislature for eight years. He retired from the Legislature in 2001.
In his remarks, Tyler recalled a story from when Standbrook was in the hospital before his death on Wednesday. Tyler said he left his father's bedside temporarily while Standbrook rallied for a brief time. Standbrook then explained Tyler's absence to other visitors with his typical humor: “‘I've already fought the North Vietnamese, the Chinese and the North Koreans, but Tyler keeps making me go up that hill. He went to get my shoes,'” the younger Standbrook recalled his father saying.
Tyler said Standbrook's statement about going up the hill was a metaphor.
“Dad, I'll see you on the high ground,” Tyler said as he finished his tribute.
By the age of 19, Standbrook has jumped twice from a plane behind enemy lines in North Korea, and by the age of 23 was a first sergeant in charge of company of 150 men, Tyler said. Standbrook retired from the military in 1973.
“He not only served to keep the United States of America free. He served to keep Red Creek, Fair Haven and Sterling free,” said Rev. Gordon Wendell, Standbrook's long-time friend, fishing buddy and the pastor of the Sterling Valley Community Church.
Standbrook's military son, Tyler, and his military grandson, John Marshall, came in uniform to remember a man they followed into the Army.
Marshall, a Specialist in the Army, said that Standbrook always had the right words to tell him, including when Marshall was told recently he will be deployed for a tour in Iraq at the end of the month.
“I loved him more like a father than a grandfather. He was an inspiration in my life,” Marshall said.
While Standbrook often had the right words, he was a man of action according to the fishing buddies and county colleagues who gathered to speak of his honesty and decency.
Standbrook would see a course of action that needed to be done and would make it happen despite seeming budget or political limitations, said Tom Stopyra, who worked as a lawyer for the county at the same time Standbrook was county chairman.
Standbrook was principal in the establishment of Cayuga Community College's Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology and getting the seawall rebuilt at Emerson Park, Stopyra said.
“Words are my livelihood,” said Standbrook's lawyer son, Fred. “When I am gone, I will be judged by what I said. My dad is judged by what he did.”
Bob Brower, IAGT's chief executive, said he understood Standbrook's death through the irony that building something worthwhile takes slow and dedicated work, but that destruction of it can only take an instant.
“I got to work with him and watch this grain-by-grain construction of great decency,” Brower said. “That mountain of decency is maybe just a little less stable now.”
Brower said the greatest honor for Standbrook's memory would be to strive to act with kindness every day.
The funeral was held at Red-Creek-Westbury United Methodist Church Saturday. Standbrook will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, December 20, 2004 at 1 p.m.
STANDBROOK, RALPH WILLARD
- LTC US ARMY
- KOREA, VIETNAM
- DATE OF BIRTH: 04/24/1932
- DATE OF DEATH: 11/03/2004
- BURIED AT: SECTION 38 SITE 5340
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Reviewed by: Michael Howard