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Waynesboro woman has worldly view of America

July 21, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Mavis Stapleford grew up in Canada. She knew Americans by reputation, by what she had heard and read about them.

She wrote, in a recent letter to the editor that her impression of Americans early in her life, "wasn't very flattering. The United States gets a lot of bad press overseas. Even in Canada, she said, they like Americans but with reservations."

Stapleford, 71, lives with her husband of 45 years, Edmund, 76, a retired physician, on Country Club Road.

Both grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, but they didn't know each other there.

Death and divorce brought them together in 1960 in Sarnia, a small town in Ontario.

Edmund was divorced and Mavis' husband, a Canadian Air Force pilot, was killed when his plane crashed.

Mavis moved to Rome to live with an uncle, who was the director of a food and agricultural organization for the United Nations. She lived with him from 1956 to 1959 and used his home as a base from which to travel.

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She traveled to countries and places where Americans were not allowed to go, she said.

"I had a Canadian passport. Canada had diplomatic relationships with countries that the United States didn't have in those years," she said.

She traveled into China, the former Eastern Bloc countries, the USSR and the Far East.

She said she saw things she would never forget - "People eating from garbage dumps, children maimed by parents so they could beg on the streets, a witch doctor who slit the eyes of a child to cure a disease, refugees by the thousands.

"My passport allowed me to go to those places so I did," she said. "I was not doing well after my husband died so I started to travel. I had to learn how to live again," she said.

"I was able to travel to countries I ordinarily would not have seen," she said. "I traveled by bus and train. I wanted to see things without being a tourist."

"It still amazes me that she traveled like that on her own. She was only in her mid-20s," her husband said.

Mavis left Rome early in 1959 to take part in her sister's wedding in Sarnia. One day while looking for an apartment a building superintendent took her to one occupied by Edmund. "He was studying for the medical boards at the time and wanted a bigger place," Mavis said.

"I just looked at her and I knew," Edmund said. "We spent three hours talking. We started to date, and six months later we were married."

The couple moved to the United States in 1962. That was when she first started to notice how hard Americans are on themselves and their country, she said. She also learned that Americans need to appreciate their basic goodness.

She said in her letter to the editor, "I have never known a nation that cares more about its young. Or a people who try harder to access what is right..."

The Staplefords moved first to Newport News, Va., where Edmund, an obstetrician and gynecologist, practiced for two years. They moved next to Utica, N.Y., and then to Waynesboro. Edmund worked at Washington County Hospital until he retired. He still does volunteer work.

Mavis became active in Girl Scouts, an interest that had its beginnings when she was a Girl Guide in Canada. She serves on the Penn Laurel Girl Scout Council.

The couple traveled extensively over the years. They went around the world, rode most of the 7,000-mile Trans-Siberian Railroad from Beijing to Vladivostok. They crossed the Gobi desert, spent time in Eastern Europe before the Berlin Wall fell and traveled in Africa.

Mavis went to Uganda alone in 1994.

"I have a very adventurous, inquisitive wife," Edmund said.

The couple has four children, Michael, 39, Michelle, 43, and twins, Thomas and Timothy, 42. Thomas Stapleford is superintendent of the Tuscarora School District.

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