MENOMONIE — It all started with a typo.
In this year that college football will begin to celebrate 150 years, UW-Stout head football coach Clayt Birmingham recently received a Facebook message from Ann (Stebly) Lobdell that her father’s name, Joe Stebly, was incorrectly spelled in the UW-Stout football record book under the all-conference listings. The sports information office made the correction, then looked into the life of Joe Stebly.
A four-year player for the Blue Devil football team from 1950 through 1953, Stebly earned first team all-conference selection as a guard in 1953.
Stebly came to Stout from Milwaukee, where he grew up with three brothers and three sisters, a first-generation United States citizen. Stebly’s parents, Anton and Anna Stebly, came through Ellis Island to the U.S. from Slovenia.
Stebly attended Boys Technical High School in Milwaukee, where he played football. One of his teammates, Ray Drzewiecki, went on to play college football at Marquette and was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears in 1955.
Teaching interested Stebly, who made his way to Stout, where he enrolled in the Industrial Arts program. Stebly played football under coach Tony Storti his first two seasons and coach Jack Wink his final two seasons. Stebly was a team captain his senior year, the same year he earned all-conference honors.
According to Stebly’s daughter Ann, Stebly lived in the basement of a local funeral home, where he was paid to stoke the building’s furnace. Stebly was a three-year member of the Stout S Club and was a member of the Phi Omega Beta (FOB) fraternity for at least two years and served as fraternity president his senior year.
It was while Stebly was an FOB member the fraternity re-instituted the “The Little Brown Jug” traveling trophy between Stout and nearby Eau Claire State. The football teams had played for “The Little Brown Jug” trophy in the 1930s, but the tradition was stopped, possibly during World War II when neither school fielded a team.
The tradition returned in 1952, Stebly’s junior season, in a homecoming game Stout handily won. Eau Claire captured the trophy the following season, and there is no mention thereafter until the schools began the “War on 94” battles in 2008. The 2018 meeting between Stout and Eau Claire is scheduled for Sept. 29 in Menomonie.
Daughter Ann said her father shared a few stories about his time as a student at Stout.
“I don’t know if he was involved in this story, but he found it humorous,” Ann said. “There was a building on campus called Fleming Hall, and at some point, the E in the Fleming and the A in Hall were switched so it read Flaming Hell…college pranksters.”
Ann said her father always had a good laugh sharing the following story which occurred during a chemistry class.
“Apparently Dad had a chemistry professor who was carrying a container of sodium that she accidentally dropped into a sink of water,” Ann said. “She ended up yelling ‘Scatter Boys!’ which resulted in the kids in the classroom seeking shelter and a sink apparently blowing up.”
Stebly graduated in 1954 and was drafted into the US Army, where he served for two years. He was stationed in Alaska for at least part of his duty. He was honorably discharged in 1956 and returned to Stout where he was an assistant football coach during the 1956 season.
Stebly taught industrial arts at Berlin High School from 1957-68 and was an assistant football and wrestling coach. Stebly took over as head wrestling coach and produced two Wisconsin individual state champions – Dennis Alf (165-pounds) and Dave Briski (127-pounds) – in 1967. He moved on to Janesville where he coached and taught at Franklin Junior High and Parker High School.
Stebly returned to Stout, this time as he pursued his master’s degree, earning his advanced degree in 1971. His thesis was entitled “A Self-Instructional Safety Package for Male Junior High Industrial Arts Students.”
“The title makes me giggle as I have my bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering,” Ann said. “I suspect it was a sign of the times as girls weren’t frequently in industrial arts classes or maybe at all.
“I never knew my dad to say I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Quite the opposite as he always encouraged me to do or be anything I wanted.”
Ann called her father a man of talents, as a listing in the 1970 Stout Alumnus magazine points out.
“JOE STEBLY, Franklin Junior High teacher at Janesville, retired this past summer as the Pork Barbecue King of Wisconsin — at events in New Glarus. Contestants for this annual contest are judged on pork cookery, showmanship and the final prepared product. “ – 1970 Stout Alumnus
Stebly retired from the Janesville school district in the spring of 1994. He returned to Stout several times to bring his daughter Katy to Stout, but passed away in 1997 before Katy graduated.