MADISON, W.Va. — Paul Stephens and family have honored his late wife, Goldie D. Stephens with a donation to the new Boone Memorial Hospital. The generous gift will support the cafeteria in the new BMH facility and see it named in her honor as a plaque was mounted at the eatery’s entrance on Dec. 8.
“Goldie was the glue that held our family together for so many years,” said Paul Stephens of his late wife. “She continues to hold us together.” Stephens is semi-retired but still comes to the office of Stephens Auto Center in Danville every day where his son Richard oversees the operations of the business. Daughter Paula Ballard and Michael Stephens also work within the business and share ownership with their brother.
“We really are the definition of a family business,” said Richard Stephens. “Our ties in the community are deep and we were thrilled to contribute to the new hospital.”
Both Richard Stephens and his father have used the rehabilitation services at the hospital and are very impressed with the new facility. “Our family attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and we participated in the tour of the new hospital,” said Richard Stephens. “I was so impressed with the efficient use of space. To look at that facility from the outside does not do it justice. We were very impressed with what they were able to do —- an excellent job.”
Stephens Auto Center has a rich tradition in southern West Virginia as a supporter of various community based programs like youth sports and church-based activities and fundraisers.
“Like any business, you have limited funding available for community-based contributions,” said Richard Stephens. “We have always made it a priority to do what we can and identify the needs. It’s very important to give back to a community that supports you.”
Stephens Auto Center’s story began in 1975, when Paul Stephens, a Logan County native who had moved his family to Kentucky seeking work, found an opportunity in Boone County that had too much potential to pass up. He remembers the struggle he had prior to that opportunity. “I saw potential in the dealership at the time and it wasn’t doing particularly well,” he said. “It was an opportunity for me to come back home.”
The businessman said that he didn’t set out to work in the car business as a young man, but got his first taste of the industry working for a dealership in Hamlin and later in Nitro.
“I was just trying to feed myself and my family,” he said. “I was just looking for a job. I went to business school in Charleston and that was 1958 and there were no jobs to be had. I worked in Columbus and Akron and then in Kentucky. I just kept trying.”
Incorporated in 1934, Boone Motor Sales began as a Ford dealership. The Mullins family owned the business for multiple decades.
“We are West Virginia natives and our family was living in Kentucky at the time which was a period of about six years,” said Richard Stephens. “Oather Mullins sold my father an interest in the company in 1975 with the agreement that over the next five years, my father would buy out the rest of the interest in the company which was completed in the early 1980s.”
It wasn’t long before Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge came knocking in 1984 and wanted Stephens Auto Center to incorporate their brand into the business. In the late 1980s, Chrysler absorbed American Motors and the Jeep franchise. With a Jeep dealer already in the area, it would be 1997 before Stephens Auto Center could absorb the brand into its offerings. Paul Stephens will turn 80 in January and his son says that his energy level is still strong. “My father is in good health and he is still very active,” said Richard Stephens.“He enjoys talking with customers and he enjoys communicating with our employees on a daily basis. I wouldn’t say that he retired at any certain point. He has gradually reduced his role and turned over the reins to me.”
Richard’s sister Paula Ballard’s husband, Mike Ballard also works at the dealership and in recent months, brother Michael Stephens has been working in the family business. The son and general manager says that the dealerships decision to honor his mother with the contribution was also affirmation of the family’s commitment to Southern West Virginia in trying economic times for the region. “If people support their local businesses, ours as well as others – it all comes back around,” he said. “It allows us to support the community in efforts like our contribution to the hospital, to schools, Little Leagues and others who come to us for help. Even with the loss of coal jobs in the area, there are going to be people here for a long time whether they are mining coal or not and a quality hospital is important to serve those people. ”
When the family saw the mounted plaque at the hospital that honored Goldie D. Stephens, they were moved emotionally. “It was very special,” said Richard Stephens. “My mother passed away 10 years ago and we’ve made efforts to support the community in her memory and the hospital represents one of those efforts.” Reflecting on his mother, Stephens recalls some of the things that made her special and how he is sometimes reminded of her imprint on the dealership. “My mother smiled all the time,” he said. “She was upbeat and pleasant regardless of the circumstances. She never knew a stranger and everyone was welcomed in her home. She loved people and it showed in how she treated them. She loved taking care of her family and was a devout Christian. She attended Madison Baptist Church. She was very faithful and instilled that in her family.”
One particular recurring discovery is a constant reminder to the family of the impact their mother had on the business. “She did accounting work here in the office over the years,” he said. “I see things from time to time that make me think of her. I run across documents at times that are in her handwriting and her handwriting was very distinctive and it causes memories to come rushing back. It’s a good thing.”
Today, Paul Stephens enjoys four grandchildren in Micah, Cole, Kendall and Brett. Stephens Auto Center is located at 104 Stephens Drive in Danville. Call 304-369-2411 for more information or visit stephensauto.com. To learn more about the Boone Memorial Hospital Capital Campaign, contact campaign director Denver Allen at 304-539-2242 or visit bmh.org.