Ed Stocker was a lifelong farmer, a Snohomish Valley institution dubbed the “Corn King,” and a community-minded man. His many contributions included serving the local food bank and playing Santa Claus.
He found ways to make a living in agriculture as the business changed. “He was nothing if not an innovator,” said Keith Stocker, the youngest of Ed Stocker’s three children and the one now wearing the farmer’s hat.
Edwin Charles Stocker died June 1 at age 90.
“He was a dairyman until Highway 9 went through,” said Keith Stocker, 53. It was 1958, he said, when the family’s barns were claimed through eminent domain. “The barns were where the highway sits now. That’s how we ended up with property on both sides of the highway.”
Stocker Farms, along what’s now Airport Way south of Snohomish, was started in 1919 by Ed’s parents, Edwin F. and Sarah Stocker. It evolved from a dairy to growing crops for canneries. After local canneries closed, Ed Stocker raised corn for grocery stores. And when big corporations took over those stores, the family began selling its sweet corn to the public.
“He was a front man for that,” Keith Stocker said. That first farm stand was a screen door over a pair of sawhorses. “My earliest childhood memories are filling a gunny sack with corn, and putting the dollar bill in a cigar box,” he said.
His father worked construction jobs along with farming to support his family.
Today, Keith Stocker and his wife, Janet, operate Stocker Farms Country Market on Airport Way. An event venue that hosts weddings, the farm has a corn maze and “Stalker Farms” in the fall. The family sells Christmas trees and has a U-pick blueberry farm.
Dan Bartelheimer, president of the Snohomish County Farm Bureau, remembers the thousands of hours Stocker devoted to 4-H. Bartelheimer, whose farm is between Snohomish and Monroe, was once a member of the Bicycle Tree 4-H Club founded by Ed Stocker in about 1950. “That’s where I’m really going to remember Ed, all the work and time he spent in 4-H with that club,” Bartelheimer said.
The club was named for a massive cedar that had an arch through which people rode bikes and horses. A Snohomish area landmark for years, the tree is gone but the 4-H club still bears its name.
Born Sept. 21, 1926, Ed Stocker spent nearly all his life in Snohomish. He graduated from Snohomish High School in 1944. He enlisted in the Army that year, and qualified for Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was in Alaska, as U.S. forces prepared to invade Japan, when World War II ended.
One of four children, he returned after the war to take an ownership role at the farm.
His younger brother, Charles “Chuck” Stocker, 79, remembers long hours working with Ed. “He was a good big brother,” said Chuck Stocker, who lives at Newman Lake near Spokane.
When he was at Snohomish High School in the 1950s, Chuck Stocker and his brother milked the Holsteins twice a day, at 4:30 a.m. and after school. “A lot of what I ended up involved with, FFA and 4-H, was because of his leadership,” said Chuck Stocker, who became a teacher and school superintendent.
Ed and Edith Stocker were married Sept. 7, 1957. They met through his work with 4-H and hers with Snohomish County Extension. Along with his wife of nearly 60 years, he is survived by daughter Diane McInnes, sons Allen and Keith Stocker, brother Chuck Stocker, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
He served with the Snohomish Community Food Bank, the Snohomish Planning Commission, the Evergreen State Fair Board, Kiwanis, Lions Club, the Snohomish Farm Bureau and other organizations.
Kandace Harvey, president and CEO of Harvey Airfield in Snohomish, described him as a “dear, longtime friend.” They served together on the food bank board of directors more than 27 years. In its early days, the food bank was housed at Stocker’s produce stand, and later at Harvey Field.
“I found Ed to be passionately committed to the mission of the Snohomish Community Food Bank,” she said. “On serving days, it was very common to find Ed in his special chair, perched in a prime location on the floor of the food bank, engaging in conversation and joking around,” she said. “His personal contributions and his caring and compassionate ways will be remembered forever.”
In the 1990s, Stocker and his wife sold some of their property, for much below market value, to the Snohomish Affordable Housing Group. The private group built apartment units for low-income tenants without state or federal subsidies.
The family also helped the community by selling land to the Snohomish Youth Soccer Club for playfields rather than to developers. “He was always quick to support things like that,” Keith Stocker said.
Keith Stocker remembers playing “elf” when his dad would dress up as Santa and visit churches and nursing homes. “He was very giving,” he said.
“He had his own way — he did it his way,” Stocker said. “It was hard work. No one worked harder than him.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
A graveside service for Ed Stocker is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Zion Lutheran Cemetery, 2020 Ludwig Road, Snohomish. It will be followed by a reception, 2-4:30 p.m. Saturday, at the Zion Lutheran Church parish hall, 330 Union Ave., Snohomish. Donations in Stocker’s honor may be made to the Snohomish Community Food Bank or Zion Lutheran Church.