International ambassador: Stanley Beal makes friends around the world through exchange programROUND LAKE — Stanley Beal has traveled widely through the continental United States, his only trip outside North America a weekend spent in the Bahamas. At age 91, one of his few regrets is not visiting Germany, the homeland of his ancestors and more recently many beloved friends. “I had one Welsh great-grandfather who was with General Sherman through Georgia during the Civil War,” Beal noted. “He was given a quarter section in Round Lake Township. That’s why I’m here. But I’m seven-eighths German.”
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
ROUND LAKE — Stanley Beal has traveled widely through the continental United States, his only trip outside North America a weekend spent in the Bahamas. At age 91, one of his few regrets is not visiting Germany, the homeland of his ancestors and more recently many beloved friends.
“I had one Welsh great-grandfather who was with General Sherman through Georgia during the Civil War,” Beal noted. “He was given a quarter section in Round Lake Township. That’s why I’m here. But I’m seven-eighths German.”
But Beal has traveled vicariously to Germany and many points beyond through the many international students he befriended as an international exchange coordinator for the EF Foundation for Foreign Study. Headquartered in Boston, EF Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is a leader in high school exchange nonprofit, placing approximately 3,000 students a year.
“I was 76 years old when I first took on a student,” said Beal, who became involved as the result of a tragic automobile accident that killed the host brother of Kjetil, a student from Norway then living in the Brewster area.
“They wanted him to stay, but he didn’t want to,” related Beal. “Lee Jansen, who lived here in town, was in the same class, so he took him home, and he lived there after that. … He called me one night and wanted me to apply to be the exchange coordinator. I never thought of such a thing, but he put the pressure on, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll apply.’ That was 1995.”
Working with EF’s regional coordinator John White, who is editor of the Clara City Herald, Beal helped to place 17 international students in and around the Round Lake area.
“I hosted four myself,” Beal said. “I asked for one of them, John sent the other two, and the fourth one came and wasn’t placed yet.”
Without missing a beat, Beal can rattle off names of the various students — Jose, Peter, Jan, Sebastian, Martin, Anna-Lena, to name a few — and the countries and cities they are from, along with their particular personality quirks.
“My first one, Peter, was a Dane, and he was here 10 weeks. He was the most introverted fellow I ever met.”
Another student, Maximilian from Germany, was so enamored of Beal’s apple pie that he took the recipe and put it on the menu of his family’s restaurant. Beal has a copy of the menu that lists “Stanley’s Apple Pie.”
Whether the students stayed at his house or at another home in the area, Beal ensured that they got the most out of their stay. He made countless trips to New Ulm and other area points of interest, even venturing as far as the Black Hills of South Dakota on one occasion. The students knew they could hang out at his house, and Beal enjoyed being surrounded by their youthful energy.
“For one month, I had one to four here every day,” he said, a wistful expression on his face. “I didn’t get lonely.”
Before they are sent to their host homes, the international students attend an EF orientation and language camp, but the students didn’t always have a strong command of the English language when they arrived in Minnesota. Beal recalled one student from Chile who only knew one word of English when he arrived, yet was on the school honor roll by the end of his first quarter in the American school.
There were other difficulties to overcome and situations to smooth over, including cultural differences, lax hygiene habits and school attendance, all of which Beal dealt with as the local exchange coordinator.
“There was a 6- foot 7- Viking from Norway, and he liked to drink,” recalled Beal about an incident when that student overindulged. “If he felt half as bad as he looked. … His dad called from Norway to see if I’d thrown him out.”
Beal himself speaks a little German, and the clock on the wall in his kitchen, purchased in New Ulm, has German numbers: eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn, elf, zwölf.
“This old fool, when he was 74 years old, went up to the college in Worthington and took a course in German,” he explained. “I was the only ‘boy’ in the class, the rest were young girls. I can still remember when one word, ‘fahrt,’ would come up — it means to drive — this one girl would just giggle.”
In addition to the EF students, Beal took an interest in the student exchange program between Worthington and Crailsheim, Germany, and at one time served on the Worthington-Crailsheim committee.
“I have always enjoyed exchange students,” he said, recalling the first student who came from Crailsheim in 1948-’49. “I remember Armin Ziegler, and I felt for him because he was alone, no local companion.”
Beal became particularly good friends with Henning Hach, the student from Crailsheim in the 1992-93 school year, and Hach has returned to visit Beal several times and corresponds with him regularly.
“I took the best trip of my life when Henning came back in 1995,” Beal said. “We went north to Winnipeg, through the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Vancouver, then down the Pacific coast, San Francisco. When we got down to Mexico, we took the trolley over into Tijuana. Henning did all the driving — 7,300 miles, four weeks to the day. He did his darndest to get me to come to Germany, but I never got there.”
But Beal has relished the sights of Germany through the postcards Hach and other German students have sent him. A King Edward cigar box holds more than 100 postcards, with pictures and postmarks from Australia, Machu Picchu, Monaco, Bangkok, Barcelona, India, Greece, New Zealand, Egypt, Sri Lanka and many more faraway cities and countries.
“I had to get out my atlas lots of times to figure out where they were from,” said Beal, who also has a map of the world hanging on the wall of his living room, a display of flags from around the world beneath it.
In addition to the cigar box full of postcards, Beal has multiple albums of pictures and newspaper clippings about the students who have passed through the small community of Round Lake, and consequently through his life. Each postcard he receives, every message that comes through his computer email box, brings back a flood of memories of the world travelers he has befriended.
“It’s been the highlight of my senior years,” Beal said. “If I wasn’t so old, I’d still be doing it. But it’s not fair to them anymore either, and I just can’t do it. But it added spice to my life, that’s for sure.”