Santa Barbara’s Stan Clothier loves to swing into action
By JIM COOMBS, SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-PRESS
When I first moved to Santa Barbara four years ago, I began playing golf two to three times a week with the Cosmopolitan Club group that a neighbor hooked me up with. One of the first guys I met was a fellow named Stan who was older than I was.
Stan Clothier was an excellent golfer, played from the front tees, and usually shot his age or better.
He was fun to be around, very witty and a great teaser. “You can’t possibly make that putt, Jim; it’s way too hard for you … Putt it here,” which was obviously the wrong spot. If I made the putt, we would laugh and banter back and forth for the next 15 minutes.
About four months ago, he and his partner Ron Singer won a tournament at Sandpiper that included 24 players. In January Stan got a hole-in-one on the second hole at the Santa Barbara Golf Club. It was the eighth hole-in-one of his career.
Oh, did I mention that Stan turns 100 on Thursday?
Stan Clothier was born April 8, 1921, and raised in a Lakeside, Mont., log cabin with dirt floors and no plumbing or electricity. His father and mother had come across America in a covered wagon in the early 1900s to homestead and farm. They lived on what was known as Clothier Lane. Stan was the second oldest of seven kids.
Stan attended a one-room schoolhouse, and he claims he often walked more than a mile through two feet of snow to get to school.
He learned early how to hunt and fish to help put food on the family table. He graduated from high school in 1939 but went back for another year in 1940 to take advanced classes in math and science.
When World War II broke out, Stan joined the Navy and chose the more difficult posting. He studied radar radio and was involved in helping to develop remote control drone bombers, where he tested the prototypes. “He always took the challenge,” said daughter Ann.
Later he went to flight school, but the war ended before he got his pilot’s license. One of his classmates was future astronaut Scott Carpenter.
Stan joked, “The war ended when they heard I was going to be a pilot.”
The war years developed a confidence that would provide a motivation that would carry Stan far in business and life for another 75 years.
After the war Stan went to the University of Minnesota on the G.I. Bill, and he graduated in electrical engineering. There he met Lucille Hansen, a beautiful receptionist. Stan’s charm quickly won Lucille over, and they would be married for 64 years until she passed away 10 years ago.
Stan and Lucille had three children: Bill Clothier in Santa Barbara, Ann Clothier in Los Angeles, and Joanie Saint-Denis, also living in Santa Barbara with husband Gary. Joanie and Gary have two children, Remy and Eva, now adults. Both grandkids and their grandfather are members of the Mutual Admiration Society.
In his early years in Minnesota, Stan travelled long distances as a salesman of electric components. He would bring his golf clubs and invite his buyers out to play golf. With his winning personality, instead of spending 20 to 30 minutes with them, he would get 4½ hours of their time on the golf course and longer as dinners were often involved. Buyers always looked forward to when Stan came calling.
His son Bill commented that he has never met anyone who didn’t love Stan. “He always makes friends wherever he goes. To this day, if Stan goes out to dinner by himself, he likes to sit at the bar and strike up a conversation with fellow patrons. Often his new acquaintances are so charmed by him they end up buying him dinner!”
One time, early in his career while playing in a business tournament, Stan got a hole in one. Although he really couldn’t easily afford to buy drinks for all the golfers, he did so. However, from that time on, everybody remembered Stan, the guy who bought drinks, and his sales with his new manufacturer’s representative company, The Stan Clothier Co., soared.
Eventually he had two divisions of his company, an O. E. M. (Original Equipment Manufacturer), which supplied all of the semiconductors and other items that went into building computers as well as many other devices.
The distributor side of the business sold products that were already built, things such as Pioneer stereos, Apple Computers and other leaders in their fields.
Stan would buy a building and his new start-up company, Data Link, which supplied software, hardware and services to major companies nationally. His company grew larger over the years, and when Stan grew older, he sold it to one of his employees.
Data Link has since grown into a company employing hundreds and is today valued at more than $250 million.
His son Bill said, “He made millionaires out of more than a dozen employees and could have made much more for himself had he not been so concerned about being more than fair with them.”
Over his lifetime, Stan built numerous homes, belonged to many different golf clubs, and used his 27-foot motorhome for family trips and Minnesota Vikings’ games.
He bought indoor plumbing for his parent’s home, and when his father died, bought a new home for his mother. He also started several companies for other people. He would partner briefly with them and then let them buy him out.
His daughter Joanie said, “Dad was always a standup guy. His handshake was his word, and he has a very high moral compass.”
Stan would retire around three times (1980, 1995, 2000) before moving to La Quinta, where he still is a member of the Tradition Golf Club. He moved to Santa Barbara in 2006 to be closer to Joanie and her family but still spends part of the winter in La Quinta with the great friends he made there.
A few years before that Stan and his golf partner Denny Sanford won the age group division at his former club, the prestigious Interlachen C.C, they later teamed up again and won at Denny’s Arizona club Whisper Rock.
He will spend his 100th birthday this Thursday playing at Tradition, where he received a lifetime free golf membership and a tournament was named in his honor.
Stan still lives on his own, and before COVID-19, travelled around the area by Uber as he quit driving last year. He stands erect with that twinkle in his eye and always a friendly “Hello.”
His steady golfing buddy Ron Singer calls him “Stan the Man.” “His 100th birthday is ‘an incredible milestone,’ but not nearly as incredible as he is.”
The Cosmopolitan Club will hold a 100-year-old birthday party April 12, for Stan around 3 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Golf Club with all his many golfing friends. They all chipped in to buy him new golf equipment.
Stan Clothier: “A true gentleman. A quintessential American story from the Greatest Generation. 100 years old and still going strong.”