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Teaching couple shares hearts and home with students

July 19, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The lines between the personal and professional lives of Ralph Stottlemyer Jr. and his wife, Sharon Stottlemyer, are quite blurry.

While some prefer to keep their work at the office, that is not the case with Ralph Stottlemyer, 59, a teacher and coach for South Hagerstown High School, and Sharon Stottlemyer, 50, a teacher at Smithsburg Elementary School.

Not only does Ralph Stottlemyer give his home phone number and pager number to his students and athletes, the Stottlemyers even had two students live with them while finishing up their high school educations.

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In both cases, he says, the boys were on teams he coached and they needed a place to stay for at least one year so they could finish their educations without switching schools.

Ask the couple about temporarily housing the students and they treat it as no big deal.

But to the first student the childless couple allowed to become essentially a surrogate son for more than a year, it meant a lot.

"I think the world of them," said Rodney Marvin, who played on the school's football team. He stayed with them during his senior year, graduating in June 1984, after his family moved out of the area, Ralph Stottlemyer said.

He will never forget their generosity and hospitality, he said. The older he gets, the more thankful he is for how they took him in when his family relocated, he said.

"The whole time I stayed there, I felt like I was part of the family," Marvin said. "It definitely had a positive impact on the rest of my life."

The couple also housed Jeremy Cook in 1990 and part of 1991, Ralph Stottlemyer said.

While they have not housed any new students in recent years, on Thursday both said they would be willing to let another student live with them if the situation presents itself again.

They believe in helping where they can, said Ralph Stottlemyer, who was wearing his beeper in case a student needed his help during summer break.

They would not have been able to be as hospitable if they had children of their own, Sharon Stottlemyer said.

If he had children of his own, it would not be fair to spend so much time away from them while coaching and participating in other activities, Ralph Stottlemyer said.

Looking around a room in their house, pausing to look at some of the photographs of the teams he coached, Ralph Stottlemyer said, "I guess it was meant to be."

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