Betty Stahl

May 02, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Ellen Elizabeth "Betty" Stahl, who died April 22 at the age of 77. Her obituary was published in the April 24 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Betty Iseminger was out with friends one night when they ended up at the Shangri-La Restaurant near Greencastle, Pa.

The pretty brunette had just graduated from Hagerstown High School, first in the class of 1949, and was working in the display advertising department at The Herald-Mail Co.

"Then dad came out of the kitchen and from then on, he was going after her," said Diane Stahl, daughter of the couple who married in 1950 after that chance meeting.

Dick Stahl went into the U.S. Air Force and for a while, the couple was separated. Betty later joined him in Texas. Their son, Jimmy, was born there in 1953.


The restaurant connection that brought the couple together became stronger during that stint in Texas.

"All the officers loved dad's cooking and he learned a lot there," Diane said.

Betty also had grown up surrounded by the food service business. The Iseminger family had a store in Funkstown on Alternate U.S. 40 right at the turn to Boonsboro.

"Her mother was a wonderful cook, too," daughter Susan Rude said.

When Betty and Dick returned to this area, they worked together for a while at the Shangri-La. In 1957, they bought the Dutch Kitchen Restaurant in Hagerstown and continued to run that establishment until 1986.

"It was a restaurant as far back at the 1700s along the National Pike," Jimmy said.

Susan said the Stahl family lived for a long time in a lovely apartment above the restaurant. That made it easy for all of the members of the family to pitch in when they were needed.

"I grew up there," Jimmy said. "I bused tables, I cooked and I washed dishes."

Susan also was a waitress when needed and bused her share of tables at the Dutch Kitchen.

The reputation of the Dutch Kitchen grew, as did its base of loyal diners who often traveled from nearby states to eat there.

A book titled "Maryland's Historic Restaurants and Their Recipes" devoted space to the Dutch Kitchen, The Dutch Kitchen's favorite recipes included their Roquefort cheese salad dressing, fried oyster sandwiches, bean soup and country ham sandwiches. It was described as a place revered by local residents, Hollywood stars and musicians with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

In that article, Betty spoke of how she never will forget getting kissed by Ernest Borgnine on her 50th birthday or playing the piano with Guy Lombardo standing nearby.

"Mom would have the symphony people up to the apartment and she'd play the piano and the organ," Diane said.

Sister-in-law Linda Nye, who lived above the restaurant before the Stahls, remembers how musical Betty was, even at an early age.

"I came out once in my pajamas to find Guy Lombardo there in his Royal Canadian jacket," Linda said. Betty was playing the piano, and Lombardo was amazed at how well she played.

Betty's brother, Bob Iseminger, was in a band and he recalls their parents wrote music. And Dick Stahl made a living playing in a band during The Great Depression.

"Our grandmother and mother sang in the choir at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Funkstown," brother Bill Iseminger said. For a time, Betty also was in that choir, making it a three-generation endeavor.

Bonnie Iseminger said she was working as a flight attendant in Washington, D.C., when Betty and her best friend, Sally Beaver, decided Bonnie should meet Betty's brother, Bob, now her husband of 40 years.

Diane said her mother chose her life's path -- food service and music -- while she chose education for her own.

"Whatever you did, she looked to the positive, not on people's faults," Diane said.

"She taught me to be real," Jimmy said. "I watched how she functioned in life ... she was not self-promoting and she treated everyone the same."

Jimmy recalled many people who frequented the Dutch Kitchen in its heyday were the movers and shakers in the community. But Betty wasn't impressed.

"She always told us it was not about the love of power, but about the power of love," he said.


By Theresa Stahl, daughter-in-law

We remember the drama as sparks flew around

At the Stahl's Dutch Kitchen in the heart of downtown

The kitchen so clean, you could eat off the floor

And you knew a great meal was just inside the door

Whether broiled steaks or seafood, the meal would delight

As the locals relaxed by dim candlelight

Such pride the Stahls took in each meal that was served

And a prize for their cooking, they truly deserved

Betty was loved and admired by all that she met

Her sweet disposition and smile no one could forget

Her perfect pitch amazed family and friends

Who enjoyed when she played piano or organ; sometimes for hours on end

So, as we remember dear Betty this day

We thank God for good memories that with us will stay

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