Character Spotlight: Mabel Stentz

Over the past few weeks, I’ve introduced readers to a few of the main characters from Forgetting My Way Back to You, my upcoming novel, through character spotlights.  In keeping with one of the story’s elements, these posts are portrayed as news articles in the Coatesville Times, the setting’s actual local paper.

This final edition sheds light on Mabel Stentz, the protagonist’s dear older friend whose frisky wit all but steals the story.  I based her on a close family friend I looked on as a grandma, who I often told I’d write a book about her one day.  Almost fourteen years after she passed, I’m so thrilled it’ll soon be out for readers to enjoy getting to know her and her undying spunk.

August 26, 2013

Community Spotlight: Resident Reflects on Fifty Years in Coatesville

By Terry Cinders

The Times frequently features articles on Coatesville’s longtime residents, and these are some of my favorite to put together.  Today’s is no exception.  Having moved here in the summer of 1964, Mabel Stentz may not have lived in our town the longest, but she probably has one of the liveliest stories on what brought her.

“I was a telephone operator in Louisville, Kentucky, and I spoke with a gentleman who needed to make a business call.  He had a deep voice, which made me wonder what he looked like, but I tried not to let that on since I’d been reprimanded before mabelfor flirting with callers. Nonetheless, my distraction made me connect him to the wrong line…twice, in fact!  When he called back the third time, he surprised me by how calm he was, and before I transferred him again, he asked if he could take me to dinner to see if I was a better date than an operator.”

The man proved to be Roy Stentz, who worked from 1934 to 1969 at Lukens Steel.  He’d gone to Louisville to look at other plants’ new equipment and determine if Lukens should invest in such.

“We ended up going out all three nights he stayed in town.  After our first date, he wanted my phone number, saying he’d lost trust in the help at the telephone company.”  She laughed.  “We kept in touch when he went home, and he proposed a couple times, but I refused.  I liked big city life and wasn’t going to let some man—even a very good-looking one—settle me in a quaint town.  He, of course, wouldn’t leave the factory, so that was that.”

A misfortune, though, made her reconsider.

“Later that summer, I went with some friends to New York City.  The car only had one bench seat, and there were four of us, so I was shunted off into the back with nothing to sit on but a stack of newspapers.  I was over forty, so my hips and I were never so glad to see the Lincoln Tunnel!  My glee was short-lived, however.  Our second night there, one of my friends and I were mugged at gun point.

“I’d never been so scared, and it made me realize how the world was changing.  I barely had enough money to get home, let alone go to the World’s Far like we’d planned.  So, we decided to head home to Louisville.  I asked to take a detour, though, through Coatesville and tracked down Roy so that I could accept his proposal at last.”

Stentz hasn’t ever regretted the decision, having grown to love the small town.  Her husband died in 2007, but she didn’t consider returning to Kentucky.

“My sister had moved to the area, too, by then, but I stayed, anyhow!”

At age ninety, she’s lived for the past five years in Harrison Home and enjoys playing Bingo, as well as visiting with her friend, Charlee Stoll, the center’s physical therapist.

“That girl is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met…and it isn’t just because she brings me extra desserts.”

When asked her secret to longevity, Stentz replied, “Good food and good men!”

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