A tribute to Col. Stedford
By Staff Sgt. Michaela Diallo, 171 ARW Public Affairs
/ Published June 04, 2013
Coraopolis, Pa. -- Col. Joel Stedford's wife and daughter along with several members of the 171st Air Refueling Wing paid tribute to their dear friend and Guardsman May 4th. They gathered in the Operations Auditorium at the 171st Air Refueling Wing.
Due to some unfortunate health problems, he sadly passed away a month prior to his scheduled retirement. In the Guard tradition of family support and strong friendship ties, Stedford's family was invited to receive his retirement gifts as a tribute to their loved one. His shadowbox, and other retirement gifts were presented to his family.
Stedford began his full-time career in Pittsburgh with the 112th Air Refueling Group and 146th Air Refueling Squadron in 1991 and has been a member of the 171st Air Refueling Wing since the Wing consolidation. Col. Stedford career here began in the cockpit as a Navigator. He most recently worked as a Wing Intelligence Officer. He was well known for his hard work, professionalism and sense of humor.
He was an avid baseball enthusiast and was known in Beaver County as Coach Stedford. A fundraising drive known simply as, "Keep Stedy" began immediately after his cancer diagnosis and raised more than $15,000. This included a benefit baseball game held for him and his family in his neighborhood and other events in his community as well as at the 171st. Also the baseball field in his community was dedicated in his memory in April. The field is now named after Col. Joel Stedford to commemorate his years of coaching youth and high school baseball in Beaver.
The tribute was a time for the Guard family and Col. Stedford's family to reflect on his life and career while allowing his Guard family an opportunity to express what he meant as a member of the unit. His family expressed gratitude for the tribute as well as the gracious manner in which 171st members have shown such love and respect for him.
"Anything less wouldn't have been right , a tribute was necessary for someone like him. Someone so easy to work with, dynamic, and well respected," said Lt. Col. Mark Goodwill, 171st Aircraft Maintenance Officer.