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Finally! North Kitsap man gets call from a king
LOFALL — Waiting on a phone call is the pits, especially if the wait drags on for almost two years.
For Richard Stoll, the waiting finally ended Tuesday.
Sitting in his home at about 4:45 p.m., surrounded by cultural artifacts gathered from worldly adventures, Richard got the call and answer he was hoping for.
King George Tupou V of The Kingdom of Tonga, the last surviving Polynesian monarchy, wants him to be the master planner of the capitol’s rebuild.
The Kingdom of Tonga is made up of about 170 islands southeast of Fiji. In 2006, a group of demonstrators, armed with fire, targeted a few businesses in the capitol.
“It was a dry day and windy. (The demonstrators) were aiming only at a few businesses but with those conditions it spread quickly,” Stoll said.
Banks, a telephone company and a shop that sold goods from Fiji and India were a few of the buildings destroyed. Since then, much of the capitol remained in charred ruins, blackened by fire.
Since November 2006, Stoll and his wife Ana Tupou — kin to the king through heritage — waited for Tongan finances to be in place and the final decision to be passed by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet.
“They approved everything, I guess it’s a done deal,” he said, adding that most of the funding for the project came from China, New Zealand and Australia. “It’s awful. I’m going to have to drink mai tais and go snorkeling on the coral reefs.”
Stoll is no novice to Tongan adventure.
His experience started 30 years ago as the chief engineer of the country’s water board.
While there with the Peace Corps, he met Ana, by whom he was mesmerized when he saw her performing her family’s traditional hula dance “Leiola.”
He also sailed through the islands following the “meticulously written” diary of Captain William Bligh’s famous 3,500 mile trek to Timor, the nearest European outpost, after mutiny broke out on his ship, The Bounty, shortly after leaving Tahiti in the late 1780s.
Accompanied by a good friend, Stoll sailed to the volcanic island Tofua where, according to Bligh’s diary, loyal crew member John Norton was killed with rocks by inhabiting cannibals.
When Stoll arrived the islanders were all sitting in a circle drinking Kava, a natural narcotic.
Upon speaking with the leaders about the story of Captain Bligh, Richard was led up the hill to an overgrown grave outlined with beach rock.
“I asked why they bothered to carry the man all the way up there and they said it was so the palangi could see the palangi,” he said, explaining it was so Norton could see the wooden cross of the next ship’s mast come in. “They thought white guys were really cool gods.”
Since then, Stoll added three decades worth of engineering and environmental science to his skill belt.
With his already made Tongan connections, there was no real competition for this new job, which could start as early as next week.
“Because they like me,” Stoll said laughing. “There are very few, if any, engineers with my unique qualifications for that country. I know that country, the people, the physical situation and the language. Who else are they going to find?”
In fact, Ana’s brother-in-law, the minister of transportation, said it would take three men to do the work Stoll is capable of.
It might help that Stoll and the King are old pals too.
“He’s my old drinking buddy,” Stoll said nonchalantly. “We used to spend a lot of time at the club talking about matters of the world. He’s a graduate of Oxford and is very British. He wears a monocle and has a deep admiration for renaissance paintings.”
Stoll says he can already taste the Royal Beer, owned in part by his royal majesty.