Saint Francis student seeks to work magic on grandfather’s biography

August 15, 2023

Dick Stoner and Colin Haines

Story by Reggie Hayes | Photography by Hannah Fowerbaugh

Elementary education major Colin Haines (’26) thought there ought to be a book about the life and times of his grandfather, Dick Stoner, magician and owner of Stoner’s Funstore, a Fort Wayne institution since 1949.

So, Haines took matters into his own hands—he’s writing that book.

“They say the best way to become an expert on a subject is to write a book,” Haines said. “It’s been really meaningful to sit down with my grandpa, my dad and mom, my uncle, my cousins and I’ve become friends with a lot of magicians, too.”

Haines remains in the reporting phase of the project, still collecting stories, helped along by local coverage of his quest from Fort Wayne television station WANE15.

“I’ve had a great response from all sorts of people in Fort Wayne with different stories and pictures,” Haines said. “I’ve even been in contact with other magicians, including big acts in Las Vegas who know my grandfather.”

Haines hopes to complete the book within the next two years.

Stoner, 93, spent his life working trade shows, parties and other events as a magician while running the local store. He still works in Stoner’s Funstore once a week, but will come in other days if someone requests to see him. Haines works in the store now while studying at the University of Saint Francis.

Haines’ father, Andy, worked at Stoner’s Funstore as a teenager and that’s how he met Stoner’s daughter, Georgia, who became his wife.

“In 2021, I went to a magic convention in Michigan with my grandpa, who has been going there for 75 years,” Colin Haines said. “Being there, I kept seeing all these people come up to him and it made me realize how lucky I was to be born into a family that does magic.”

“I was flattered when Colin said he wanted to write this book,” Stoner said. “It’s amazing how he gets in touch with people and gets information from them.”

Researching the book also led to Haines reigniting the Fort Wayne Magicians Club, which had disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic. The club was initially formed in 1928.

“We’re still in the reorganization phase of that, too,” with 15 current members, Haines said. “A lot of people complain about the internet and how people can learn tricks that are easy on YouTube and places like that. But when my dad and his buddies started out, they learned with books and VHS tapes, so every generation has a way of learning the tricks.”

Haines will enter his sophomore year at Saint Francis and continue to work toward his elementary education degree. He first assisted in a kindergarten class while a senior at Snider High School and he has been able to work in first and second grade classrooms while at Saint Francis. “I’m working my way up,” he said.

Haines learned that magicians have primary careers in a variety of fields, including education, and use their magic skills when they are not on the job. Magic tricks can come in handy when seeking to grab the attention of students in a classroom, Haines said.

Haines initially spent much of his energy on music—he plays guitar, banjo and harmonica—but delving into the biography of his grandfather pulled him more into the longtime family business.

“You can’t write a book about a magician and not have interest in learning those tricks, too,” he said.