Unlike many of the days at Shoreside, it was a bright and sunny morning when Stella Pirtle was filling a propane tank on March 9, 2023, her last day before retiring after 30 years of service there. Photo by Dick Shellhorn

Stella Pirtle retired from her job at the Shoreside fuel station on Main Street on March 9. Arriving a half an hour early at 7 a.m. to begin waiting on customers as she has done for exactly 30 years, she was greeted with bright springtime sunshine and cars honking their horns in appreciation as they drove by.

Ira Grindle, who probably puts more miles on his vehicle than anyone in Cordova with his daily cruise over our limited byways, showed up with a cinnamon roll from the Little Bakery; Susie Scutt dropped by with a cup of coffee, and Anica Estes brought by a batch of fresh cookies.

Stella, you see, has established herself as one of those Cordova icons that make our berg special.

Oh, she could be little bit crusty on some days, but hey, that’s what makes icons we all love. Think of Dorene Wickham and her fabulous sourdoughs at the old CoHo — heaven help the newbie that tried ordering French toast, or recall how many times she fired her best waitress, Kelly.

Then there’s Pierre DeVille at the old Powder House, waiting on customers in panhandle long johns with cases of beer stacked all over what is now the dining area, and refusing to even consider using a blender to make a drink.

My favorite Stella story is the time I went up to the window to pay for my gas, wearing a beat-up quilted jacket that hearkened back to the Shellhorn’s Clothing store days. It was (and still is) a treasured heirloom that they don’t make anymore, but Stella looked at the ripped pocket with quilting poking out in several places, and led with her favorite exclamatory expression, “Jesus Christ! Don’t you know how to sew?” followed by “Gimme that thing. I’ll fix it for you.”

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So I left with a full tank of gas and no coat. Thank goodness I didn’t have a rip in my pants.

Two days later the phone rang. “This is Stella. You can pick up your jacket.” Click.

I still wear it to this day, with one more memory up its sleeve.

Stella started out at what used to be Hoover’s, and was hired by owner Johnny Wheeler back in 1993.  He sold it back to the Glasen’s in 1996, and they sold it to Shoreside in 2007.

Through all those years and seasons of often challenging weather, every vehicle in Cordova pulled up to those pumps to fuel up, as it is the only station in town. Pleasure boats and snow machines on trailers, and ATVs were also fueled there.

Plus, not to be overlooked is the separate propane service for filling small tanks brought by.

Over cake and coffee served at the main Shoreside Office down by the ferry terminal on Tuesday, March 7, favorite Stella stories were shared.

Stella Pirtle admires a special cake at a retirement gathering at the Shoreside office on March 7, 2023. Photo by Susie Scutt

Did you know that more than once she contacted the parents of kids that were doing wayward things in their vehicles? “Our son Will never did know how we found out he was being reckless,” said Shoreside’s Susie Scutt at the gathering.

Stella was always good for some friendly chit chat, and only workers at the post office probably know more Cordovans on a first name basis than her.

Stella also reminded more than a few customers that their license plates were expired, in case they hadn’t noticed.

Thanks Stella.

Our memories of trips to the gas pumps will not expire.

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