We keep sharing the stories of Sheila Stempel as she lives on in our hearts

To the Editor:

I wanted to share these memories of my mother, Sheila Stempel, who died on Dec. 29

Mom shared lots of stories. Before marrying Dad, she lived with her family in Albany. We learned Grandpa Munro started the first pipe band when he moved here from Scotland. His nickname for her was “Pet.” He would take her fishing - a spot seen along I -90 where the only thing you caught was catfish. “Come on Pet let's go fishing today.”

Her Aunt Margaret was a telephone operator in East Berne and Mom was staying with her for the summer. There was a dance at the Maple Inn and Mom asked if she could go. Dad was supposed to meet another gal there. But he spotted Mom and wanted to dance with her. And so it began.

After marrying Dad, they moved in with Grandpa and Grandma Stempel. We heard about Grandma Stempel and her relatives chatting in their native Czech language. Mom understood what they were saying and chuckled. Grandma Stempel asked if she understood and, when Mom said yes, Grandma said, we might as well speak English.

If Mom wanted people’s attention in a crowded room she loudly commanded “Cheehobee,” meaning silence or shut-up.

Mom told us about Dad trying to shoot her. Later in the story, we find out he was just shooting at the woodchucks in the hayfield.

One summer day, a mini-bike was part of the story. Everybody was taking turns going for a little ride. Mom jumped on and kept going faster and faster — as she drove into the barn ramp and a pile of hay bales to stop the thing.

She experienced a few vehicle adventures. While driving a downhill street in Albany, she lost her brakes. It was a standard. Thinking she would slow down, she plopped it into neutral. Cranking the wheel at the bottom, she came to a stop on a sidewalk. A cop came up and said, “You can't park that here.” She replied, “Here are the keys; you move it.”

Driving to Schoharie, Mom turned a corner and was suddenly airborne over the guardrails, flipping several times over and landing in the creek bed. She said, “Oh God, don’t let me die now,” as a fluttering whiteness whooshed past her. She called home to tell us she had a little accident. We picked her up and she continued about the day because she had to do the banking.

Taking a drive with Mom was like riding with a Hollywood tour guide. She would say, “That house is powered by solar. That’s your lumber on that building. So-and-so’s Mom lives there.”

Mom shared the following on one tour-guide ride: “When your father and I went to that house up there, they had a bunch of naked portraits on the wall. The woman wanted to do a portrait of your father in the nude. I told her, I don’t think so.”

Obviously, Dad had no say in the matter.

Birthdays were all celebrated either at home or in fun places — Chuck E. Cheese’s, roller-skating and ice-skating rinks. She threw a surprise 50th for Dad at Swickelbauer’s.You always had to have birthday cake and ice cream. And birthday cards all included a shiny new penny for good luck.

Mom shared so many stories. Her life was full. A soloist, pianist, organist, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, involved community member and service organization member. Because of her, we received life. Her legacy of stories, humor, and stubborn determination continues on through all of us. Keep sharing the stories as she lives on in our hearts.

Here are some stories from her grandson, Nathan Stempel:

There is no way, I would have been at Grandma’s house for more than 30 seconds before being offered something to eat and a glass of water or ginger ale. Her baking was world-class. No one went hungry around Grandma. She was always welcoming when any of us came around.

Grandma was always eager to help out with a load of laundry to at least make sure we were cleanly clothed. She had some kind of magical power to get rid of stains; I don't know how she did it. There is no doubt she was always welcoming.

My grandma might as well have been a certified nurse having to raise this family of lumberjacks and daredevils. With this crowd, I am sure there are countless times she has been there to pick us up or bring us to the hospital or provide initial triage for a wound. I’ll share just one of my experiences that shows her skill and sense of humor.

Allen and I were in the shed, throwing rocks at the birds that had made nests in the rafters. I threw one straight up and, after a second, realized it was coming down straight for my head. I tried to run out of the way but the thing hit me right in the middle of my head.

We walked up to the house and she was completely calm as she answered the door to my blood-streaked face. It might have been because she thought we were pranking her since the streak looked just like something you would have seen in a movie.

Even after I convinced her I was actually bleeding, knowing that I was going to be OK, before cleaning me up, she made me pose for a picture! She absolutely took care of the sick!

Sandra Kisselback


Editor’s note: See related obituary.

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