Starchman remembered for his friendliness
Longtime insurance salesman, community leader leaves legacy
According to those who knew him, John Starchman never knew a stranger.
A longtime insurance salesman and community leader in the Cassville area, Starchman passed on Dec. 30, 2020, leaving a legacy of his family, his friendliness, his leadership and a little bit of music.
Judie Starchman, John’s wife of nearly 50 years, said the two met at Missouri Southern State University and courted for more than four years before getting married in June 1970.
“He was a very kind and funny man, and I think anyone who ever met John felt like he was their best friend,” Judie said. “Everyone always felt comfortable with him, and he took great interest in people’s concerns and problems they had. He was always there to help people.”
One of those friends was Jim Craig, who bought the Sears Authorized Catalog Store near Starchman Insurance at Main and Highway 112.
“We became friends immediately,” Craig said. “John never knew a stranger. He was an open person with a huge heart. He helped me get going in town with my business and introduced me to the Rotary Club.”
Judie said her husband had a penchant for public service. He was an active member in Cassville United Methodist Church, Rotary Club, Masonic Lodge, and the Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he was Chairman of the Board of the Barry County Health Department, served on the Flat Creek Special Road District Board, and was the recipient of the Cassville School District Music Advocacy Award.
“He felt proud of his work with the Health Department, and he held every office at the Masonic Lodge,” she said. “He loved Rotary Club and when he was younger, he would go in the summer and plow the rodeo grounds and mow, making sure they were in tip-top shape.”
One of Starchman’s favorite things to do was to be Santa Claus’ “helper” in the Cassville area for many years.
“Sometimes, that would take away from his family, but he loved doing that,” Judie said. “The city always gave him candy canes to give out after the parade, and afterward, he would go to the poorer neighborhoods in Cassville and knock on doors and hand out candy canes to kids there.”
Judie said as Santa’s official “helper,” he had an agreement with local postal employees that letters addressed to Santa would be delivered to the Starchman home.
“He answered every single one of them,” Judie said. “One year, there was a letter where a child asked for a Bible. He went out and bought one and got it delivered to her.
“He really loved kids, from the little ones to the teens, and he had a way of communicating with them. A lot of adults listen but don’t focus on what’s being said. He really would listen and talk to them, especially at church and at his office.”
Starchman’s ability to connect with children led to a couple more hobbies of his — magic and the kazoo.
“He did magic tricks for the kids at his office when they came in with their parents,” Judie said. “It helped make the kids feel at ease. And, he loved playing the kazoo. He would tell everyone he was a kazoo virtuoso. He asked to play with our church choir, but I always told him we weren’t quite at his level yet and had to grow more musically before we could join him.
“He also loved to play kazoo with his granddaughter. They would often play dueling kazoos like dueling banjos, and she loved playing kazoo with her Pop-Pop.”
Judie said one of John’s favorite kazoo tunes was a simple one, the “Happy Birthday Song.”
“He was so against Facebook, but then when our kids started sending pictures of the grandkids on there and would call on Facebook, he finally signed up. He would check the birthdays often and if he knew someone well, would search out their number and call them just to play the ‘Happy Birthday Song’ on kazoo. I always rolled my eyes at it, because he did it a lot, but people said they really loved it and said it brightened their day.”
Craig said it’s tough to name a lasting legacy Starchman is leaving behind, as there are so many ways he affected the world.
“There’s no one thing I could say that encompasses his lasting impact,” Craig said. “John had such a positive effect on virtually everyone he ever met, and people who got to know him through his business or church or were his friends will feel that impact of positive feelings, and his loving and caring spirit will carry on forever.”
Judie said John’s family is his first and foremost lasting impact, and his true legacy will be left in how he loved and treated people.
“He had a special place in his heart for people who were struggling, because he grew up in a poorer area of Joplin and knew what it was like,” she said. “He had a soft spot in his heart for people in need. That’s one reason we asked for donations in his memory to go to the Cassville Food Pantry. He would have loved that.
“He was also an encourager and was so positive to those around him. That was a good character trait, his way of lifting people up. And, if he was your friend, he was loyal to a fault.”
Starchman is survived by his wife, Judie, mother, Charlotte Starchman of Joplin, Mo.; son, John Starchman (Jennifer Tharp and daughter Iliana) of Carl Junction, Mo.; daughter, Janelle Hurn (Ryan); granddaughters, Alannah Rose Hurn and Alyssa Jo Hurn of Springfield, Mo.; and brothers, Paul Starchman and David Starchman (Ruth), all of Joplin. John was preceded in death by his father, John V. Starchman, and son Joseph Ross Starchman.