Les Stockton (1916-2004) Les Stockton passed away on April 19 2004 after a long battle with melanoma cancer. As a husband and father he served his country and community in diverse roles: thirty-five years' service in the Air Force (Colonel) pioneer in the physical fitness movement butterfly collector and mountaineer.
Les was one of those larger-than-life characters who was always full of zest energy and infectious good-humor-a man living life to the fullest. Those of us privileged to attend one of his "Ten Essentials" lectures that he gave for the club's Basic Mountaineering Training Course in the 1960s and 70s will never forget the belly-laughs nor the underlying seriousness of his talk.
Les and wife Abbye were among the earliest habitués of the physical fitness area that grew up around Santa Monica Pier in the 1930s and became known world-wide as Muscle Beach. As a result of their involvement with the emerging health movement they owned and operated several gyms in the post-WWII years.
Having developed an interest in lepidoptery Les collected butterflies with his usual enthusiasm. He amassed an extensive collection of over 800 display cases which have been donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History by Abbye and the Stockton's daughter Laura.
It was while seeking high altitude butterfly species that Les was introduced to mountaineering and the Sierra Club. In October of 1967 he led his first chapter outing for the Hundred Peaks Section. Seven months later he led the first HPS Peakbaggers' Special in which the objective was to climb as many listed HPS peaks as possible in one very long day. These became annual events for Les through the mid-1970s and have been continued off-and-on by a host of successor HPS leaders to this day.
Les also led outings for the Desert Peaks Section and served on both the DPS and HPS management committees coming to chair the HPS in 1969 and the DPS in 1973. Les was always easy to spot on the trail as his standard get-up evolved into a bright red jump-suit with his head crowned with a crimson hat-leading to his nickname as "The Red Baron." Somehow during this period Les also found time to serve on the Chapter Executive Committee from 1972 through 1975
The finest testament expressed for this exuberant man was written by his daughter Laura: "I think I can honestly say that his years in the mountains were some of his happiest. I know he thoroughly enjoyed the people he hiked with led and lectured to. His good humor and positive attitude were an inspiration to all who knew him. There was always a lot of laughter when he was around! I also know that some of my father's finest and favorite moments were when he was the Master of Ceremonies for the Hundred Peaks and Desert Peaks banquets. His entertaining anecdotes kept the evenings moving right along with never a dull moment."
In acknowledgment of his many contributions the Angeles Chapter bestowed an Outings Service Award upon Les Stockton in 1979.-Bob Cates Angeles Chapter Historian
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