Stephen "Steve" Stottlemyer

December 11, 2010|By JANET HEIM |
  • Steve and Gail Stottlemyer are shown at a nephew's wedding three years ago.
Submitted photo

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in 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 Stephen Stottlemyer, who died Nov. 28 at the age of 55. His obituary was published in the Dec. 1 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Stephen “Steve” Stottlemyer might have been known through his coffee shop Higher Ground, but he now rests on alternative higher ground, a friend said. Steve and his wife, Gail, opened the coffee shop on Dual Highway seven years ago as a ministry, Gail said. She said it was her husband's passion, combining his love for sales and building relationships with the customers.

“He loved everything about the coffee shop. We went into it with a ministry attitude. It was a good venture,” Gail said. They had planned to sell the business in the spring, never anticipating Steve's death, the result of a hypertension coronary.


The family had just celebrated Steve's 55th birthday, followed by Thanksgiving two days later. Gail said Steve's birthday always marked the start of a season of celebrations and parties.

Steve had recently started a new job with Comcast to allow him to work at the coffee shop during the day. About a month ago, Gail started a job with benefits as a direct care worker at San Mar, working there after school.

She sees it as things falling into place in preparation for Steve's death. Faith was a bedrock for the Stottlemyers, along with family. “Our life definitely focused around the church. Steve was passionate about Jesus Christ and not afraid to share it,” Gail said.

Steve was not a believer when he met Gail, but his grandmother had prayed for a Christian wife for him, Gail said. The family attended Hagerstown Grace Brethren Church while their sons were growing up and have been members at Life House West Church for about a year.

Steve's other priority was his family, taking great pride in the couple's two sons. ”His greatest accomplishment were his two sons,” Gail said. Sean is a specialist with the U.S. Army and stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., with his wife and two children. He has served in Afghanistan and will return there in February 2011.

Spencer lives in Hagerstown and is an art handler and crater. He builds crates to put artwork in and often travels to Washington, D.C., to set up art exhibits, Gail said. Gail said both sons would agree that there was never a time they didn't feel their father was there for them. At Steve's memorial service, Sean read that his father “always found the good in stuff and the good in people. Dad was genuinely honest and concerned about other people. . . He didn’t do stuff for fame and recognition. He started the coffee shop as a ministry, that through his everyday actions, he might make their day better.”

Gail said some described Steve as a person “who could make a conversation with a rock and in three minutes be best friends.” The Stottlemyers, who live in Northgate, were married 30 years. They met at Weis Markets when there was a store on Maryland Avenue.

Steve was working as a produce manager and Gail, who was 16 at the time, was shopping with her mother. “It was the ‘wow’ factor. I truly believe in love at first sight,” Gail said. Steve was 3 1/2 years older and wouldn't date anyone that young.

When Gail was 19, she asked him to play tennis with her and he agreed. “We've been together ever since,” Gail said. They dated for two years, then eloped, wanting to avoid a large wedding. Steve was an only child, raised in the Silver Spring, Md., area, and his father was an only child.

His grandmother, who lived in Hagerstown, was a big influence in his life, which led him to move here after high school graduation. Gail, on the other hand, was one of eight children, which was an adjustment for Steve.

“He was very much loved by the whole family,” said his mother-in-law, Sandy Miller.

After Weis, Steve worked in the Rockville area for Cellular Phone Services for 18 years, then briefly for Fibernet before taking the job with Comcast. Gail said she likes to keep busy and always worked part-time jobs. She got a job at the Borders Cafe and learned about the coffee business, enough to whet Steve's appetite for opening a business of their own.

They considered opening a bookstore cafe in North Carolina, then decided to stay where they had roots. Gail said it took them about a year and a half to get the business up and running, which included taking classes in Philadelphia. “He was the visionary; I was the completer,” Gail said.

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