Meet your neighbor: Lisa Keeton-Stoner

Hannah Swayze • Jul 8, 2018 at 8:20 PM

Wife, mother, business owner, geologist, archaeologist, consultant — these are just a few of the many hats that Johnson City resident Lisa Keeton-Stoner has worn throughout her life. Some of them she wears at the same time. 

Stoner was originally educated at Virginia Tech as a geologist, though that wasn’t her original plan. 

“I went to Virginia Tech to be an engineer. And of course, one of the requirements as a freshman is you have to take a science class. I took geology 101 and had a graduate teaching assistant who was phenomenal. He really got me more and more interested in geology. He said you’re good at this, why don't you stay in the program? And I did,” Stoner said. 

She graduated and moved to South Carolina, where she worked for the Department of Health and Environmental Control developing alternative waste water systems. Then, she met her husband, Allen, who converted her into a Pittsburgh Penguins fan and she eventually ended up in Johnson City, where she’s been for the last 22 years. This is where she considers home. 

Throughout those years, Stoner has been been involved heavily in the PTA while her son was in school and also worked at the Gray Fossil Site when it was first discovered. 

“When we got married, I became a stay-at-home mom and then the fossil site was discovered when my son was 8. He didn’t need me at home, he was in school, so I begged Dr. (Steven) Wallace to take me on and he did,” Lisa said. “At the fossil site I started out as a volunteer. I moved up to the volunteer coordinator and Dr. Wallace's assistant and then the grant manager as we built the museum.”

She was there for the discovery of many of the fossils that are housed in Gray Fossil Site’s Museum before there were buildings — or even fences — at the site. They worked in any weather, meticulously digging up fossils of creatures from the site’s ancient watering hole. 

“I was there the day Wallace found the saber-toothed cat. I heard him yell — and here you have a grown man, he's waving his arms and he's jumping up and down! There are camels ... and we are the largest site for tapers in North America, probably the world,” Stoner said. 

Now, Stoner spends much less time at the site and has moved onto different things. She works as a consultant and property manager at Borla Performances Industries and owns several businesses, including custom engraving, antiques and vintage women’s clothes and accessories. 

However, to Stoner, she doesn't see a huge difference between digging up fossil sites and running a business. 

“I think the meticulous manner of which you handle the fossils in order to catalog them, know where they came from where you found them, (...) sort of helps with the meticulous flow of your business and how you have to keep your records,” Stoner said. 

Sometimes she’s ferrying un-released cars across state lines, sometimes she’s working in her office downtown and other times she’s watching hockey games, going to concerts or taking a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with her husband to search for shark’s teeth. She always doing something.

All this experience means she can tell stories of volunteers digging up almost completely preserved turtle fossils, driving exclusive cars that sometimes didn’t even make it into production and even the regular occurrence of accidentally setting her clipboard on rattlesnakes.

And though she insists her life isn’t that interesting, it doesn’t seem so boring. 

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