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Probate Judge to retire

Bill Stone was thoughtful. Almost apologetic.

Pike County’s probate judge of 14 years was not questioning his decision to retire from public office, just pondering it.

“This is not a decision that I came to easily,” Stone said on Friday.

“It’s something that I have been considering for several months and I’ve come to the decision that it’s time for a change of pace.”

Stone’s last day as probate judge of Pike County will be March 31 and he knows that it will be a bittersweet day.

“I’ve spent 35 years in government service with 23 of those years as an elected official,” he said.

“I will miss it. But I’ve been very blessed to have served the people of Pike County for all these years and I have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the people I’ve served. I’m so blessed that the opportunity happened to me. I can’t say enough about the people of Pike County and what they mean to me.”

Stone has been an accessible probate judge.

He felt it was his duty, his responsibility, his obligation and his pleasure to be available when needed.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Pike County Courthouse was pretty much Stone’s second home and his work was his passion.

“I’ve worked just about all of my life,” he said. “I lost my dad when I was 14 years old. I was an only child and I had to go to work to support my mother.”

Stone’s first job was stocking shelves and pushing brooms at Louis Little’s Grocery Store in what is now Meeksville.

After three years, he was promoted to clerk in the country store. He never had an opportunity to participate in sports or to develop hobbies, but for some “odd” reason, he had a desire to go to college. “I worked my way through school, at times working four jobs,” Stone said. I worked at McGhee Funeral Home and did some construction work and worked a student job at Troy State between classes.”

Stone also drove a school bus and, when he dropped the bus off at the school in the late afternoon, he went inside and cleaned the school.

When he graduated from college, he worked back at McGee Funeral Home and with GMAC before being named Pike County’s first juvenile probation officer in 1974.

In 1980, Stone was appointed circuit clerk to fill the unexpired term of Robert Newman.

Stone was appointed by circuit judges Riley Green and Terry Butts.

“I had always been interested in government service, and I was glad to get the opportunity to serve,” Stone said. After serving three years of the unexpired term, Stone was elected to a six-year term.

He then worked as an instructor at Troy University and as project manager for the AUM Center for Government and Public Policy before being elected probate judge of Pike County in 1994.

Stone laughingly said he wasn’t exactly sure why he wanted the demanding job of probate judge.

“I’ve always liked a challenge,” he said. “I like to find something hard and demanding and then go for it.”

The “job” of probate judge was hard, demanding and confining, but Stone had no problem with that.

He had worked all his life and he thrived on hard work and was motivated by a challenge. “One of the most rewarding things about being a probate judge was the opportunity to help families through the probate court,” he said. “Bring able to help families gave me a sense of accomplishment. But there’s a tremendously high volume of work at the probate office. There are layers and layers of rules and regulations and a lot of behind the scenes work that few people know about.And, it’s stressful because the probate judge is personally responsible for every transaction in the office and is also responsible for all of the money that comes through the office – between three and five million dollars. It’s a big job and often a tough job.”

Come April 1, 2009, that big job will no longer be weight on Stone’s shoulders. He will be free, for the first time since he was 14 years old, to do just what Bill Stone wants to do.

“It will be different but I’m looking forward to having time to do things that I haven’t had time to do in all these years,” he said.

“Lynne and I are remodeling the Chandler home in northern Pike County that belonged to my grandparents, my mother’s parents.

And we are also restoring Lynne’s mother’s home, both just for the love of doing it. So we have a lot to do. And, we might travel some and do some gardening and maybe not do anything some days.”

And, there will probably be days when Stone will miss the folks at the Courthouse who have been so good to him and the close contact that he had with the community.

“The people of Pike County have been so good to me and that’s something that I will never forget,” he said. “There were a lot of people who had more political clout than I did and could have done a good job as probate judge.”

“ But I got the opportunity and, with the help and support of the people, I was able to do the job and I’ll always be thankful to all of them. I have been blessed.”