Twenty Years Later

Randolph Native Entertains Worldwide

The late Jack Berger took this photo in 1998 of Sharon Stillman showing her children, Katy and Jake, where their father’s newest assignment would take them.

I’m especially excited to feature Sharon Stillman because she was my first interview 20 years ago. She is the daughter of my dear friend, the late Shirley Marvin, and she has a very interesting story to tell.

When Roy Stillman, the boy down the street, delivered her parents’ newspapers in the 80s, she had no idea she would one day share a crazy, adventurous life with him. Nearly 30 years of marriage, two children, four foreign countries and several states later, she shares a small piece of her life with us.

At the time of the first interview, Roy had recently taken a position with the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Agency, after having served nine years as an officer in the United States Army. Sharon and their two children were residing with her parents while awaiting the return of their husband and father the following month. Since then his assignments have taken them to Austria, Norway, Bahamas, Afghanistan and soon to Poland. In the U.S., he’s been assigned in Virginia, Hawaii and several times in New York state.

“This move to Washington (D.C.), including suitcase moves, even now, when we are in a studio apartment, is our thirtieth move,” Roy says. “But I get Marriott points for every single night!”

Although they are residing in Arlington, Virginia, a mile from the Lincoln Memorial, while in the midst of a grueling 44-week course to learn the Polish language and other classes to prepare for Roy’s next assignment, their belongings are in storage in Antwerp, Belgium.

The Stillman Family now consists of Brandon Myszka, Kaitlyn Stillman, Roy and Sharon Stillman and Jake and Karolyn Stillman. Katy and Brandon surprised her parents, making it the first time they had all been together in over a year.

“We’ll be in Poland for three years, enough time for me to get my Polish pottery,” she says with a grin. In the article that ran 20 years ago, Mrs. Stillman mentioned wanting to be assigned to Poland in anticipation of getting pottery.

She shares a few stories about their adventurous life beginning with Sept. 11, 2001 when she was working at the Main State Department building in Washington, D.C.

“A co-worker’s sister called to say a plane had hit the World Trade Center. There were four ambassadors working in my office that day. One had a meeting at the Pentagon,” she says. “When I went downstairs to meet a visiting delegation, I heard a guard’s radio crackle and it said ‘Here it comes.’ As I was reentering the building I heard ‘This is not a drill. Evacuate now.’

“There were people everywhere going to the Metro. A priest pulled me onto a very packed car. All cell phones were jammed. Now, I always tell my family to keep phone numbers in their pocket in case they are separated from a phone or purse. I had 14 messages on the phone at home and all were from Roy. The word was out that a bomb had gone off in the basement of my building.”

Her husband spent the next five days at Secretary of State Colin Powell’s house. During that same time, the wife was drafting letters from the President and Secretary of State thanking countries who had offered aide or support. Three weeks later Roy was shot in a training exercise. Although his helmet protected him from a more serious or fatal injury, he sustained a concussion.

Sharon Stillman will soon be baking these Cinnamon Rolls for her new friends in Poland, as she has for the friends she has met all over the world.

The family returned to the States in 2005, after a three-year stint in Norway, where Roy was Department of State Joint Terrorism Task Force liaison with the FBI. At this time his spouse worked for the Coast Guard. Three years later he was assigned to Iraq for one year while the rest of the family stayed in the States. Two weeks after he left for Iraq, their 19-year old son was in an accident which caused him to be in a wheelchair for six months.

“So, I always tell Roy I had it harder than he did with a son with an injury to both feet and his back,” Sharon jokes.

The family had some “hair-raising experiences” during a Bahamas assignment, where mother and daughter joined the agent for a year. Six months after his wife and daughter left, the government employee returned to Buffalo for three years, where he was Resident Agent in Charge at a new State Department regional office. At this time his wife worked at SUNY Buffalo. From there the couple moved to Afghanistan for a year.

“I always told him when the kids were grown I’d go to Afghanistan,” she says. “I’d go back, but he would not.”

Because Iraq and Afghanistan were considered hardship posts, R and R was given, allowing the couple to travel a bit and see the other members of their family. On one of those getaways, they met their children in Vienna, Austria for a week, where they had lived for two years when the children were small. Although their son had to return to his job after this, the others traveled to Germany and Italy.

From Afghanistan they enjoyed two years in Hawaii with all of its beauty, but they did not enjoy the island state’s cost of living.

“It was a domestic assignment, so we had to take our things out of storage,” she recalls. “We do not get a housing allowance (for domestic assignments). Rent was $4,500 per month and it was $1,300 for monthly utilities.”

Mrs. Stillman enjoys entertaining and has had parties and dinners everywhere they have lived.

“Many of the places we’ve lived have had less than ideal cooking supplies. I have learned wine bottles are great rolling pins and glasses are great cookie cutters,” she reminisces while smiling. “We have hosted several events over the years, including having 29 guests in our apartment in Afghanistan for Thanksgiving, when we used dried cranberries to make cranberry sauce.”

She has collected McCoy pottery since a bowl in her Grandmother Marvin’s basement cupboard caught her eye many years ago.

“I loved it and she gave it to me. I look for it in antique stores and collect various pieces of what strikes me. My son and daughter-in-law usually give me a piece for Christmas,” she says. “I never knew until a year or two ago that my mother had two McCoy cookie jars.”

The Stillmans’ son, Jacob, has had two open heart surgeries since he and his sister, Katy, appeared in the picture with their mom when she was featured 20 years ago. He is a banker residing in Havelock, North Carolina with his wife, Karolyn, who is a marine biologist for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Roy and Sharon’s daughter, Katy Stillman, lives in Buffalo with “the man she will marry,” and is a manager at Ann Taylor Loft in the Galleria Mall. Sharon is the daughter of Milton Marvin and the granddaughter of Merle McKimm, both of Randolph.

Some of the recipes shared were acquired over the years from Randolph area residents. Shirley’s Blueberry Buckle was her mother’s recipe and Mildred’s Cheese Fondue was given to her by her late mother-in-law, Mildred Stillman. Jake’s Peanut Butter Parfait was adapted from her long-time childhood neighbor and family friend, Ruth McLaughlin’s, Peanut Butter Pie because Jake does not like pie crust. It can be used in a graham cracker or regular baked crust.

Ever since Mrs. Stillman discovered her heated floor worked well for rising the Cinnamon Roll dough, she has used this method whenever she lives in a home with that feature. An explanation is given each time her guests show surprise at the name of the Funeral Beans. It happens to be her most requested recipe.

“I have often had to explain the concept of bringing food to a home when a loved one passes away,” she says. “While we have parties at every place we live, the food often remains the same because people always request the same things. I have served cinnamon rolls with Buffalo wings and Funeral Beans as a side.”

Now, I have a confession to make. We laughed when I told Sharon “I” was writing this story, because I was clueless and wondered what had I just gotten myself into 20 years ago when I interviewed her. Not knowing the first thing about writing, I asked if she wanted to write her story and she said “yes.” She wrote that first story that ran June 6, 1998. I wrote this one and I still don’t know what I’m doing!

Cinnamon Rolls

Dough:

1 package yeast

1 c warm milk

1/2 c sugar

1/3 c butter, room temperature

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

4 c flour

Filling:

1/3 c butter, room temperature

2 T cinnamon

1 c brown sugar

Frosting:

8 oz cream cheese

1/4 c butter

1 1/2 c powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Dissolve yeast in warm milk; let sit for about 5 minutes. Mix in butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Combine salt with 1 cup flour. Add all of flour to other ingredients. (I use a wooden spoon, but an electric mixer with dough hooks may be used.) Knead dough for about five minutes. Let rise in a warm place until double in size, approximately one hour. (I generally heat my oven to 200 degrees while preparing the dough and shut it off before setting the it inside to rise.) Roll dough on a floured surface until it is approximately 10” x 18.”

Spread 1/3 c soft butter over dough. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll dough up jelly roll-style and cut into 12 pieces. Place in a greased 9” x 13″ pan. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake in 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until golden brown. Watch carefully because time varies with each oven.

While dough is baking, mix together frosting ingredients:

1 package softened cream cheese

1/4 c soft butter

11/2 c powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Spread rolls with frosting immediately upon removing from oven.

Funeral Beans

1 lb bacon

1 lb ground beef

1/2 c onion, chopped

1 c white beans, Lima bean, etc, drained

1 can pork and beans

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1/2 c cider vinegar

1 c ketchup

2 T dry mustard

1/2 c sugar

Fry bacon, drain and crumble. Saute ground beef and onion, drain. Combine meat and beans in crockpot. Mix other ingredients and add to meat mixture. Cook 2-3 hours on low. You can also cook for approximately an hour in a 350 degree oven. (I have used every kind of bean imaginable and it turns out great every time.)

Roy’s Favorite

Salad Dressing

2 c olive oil

1 c balsamic vinegar

1 T Dijon mustard

2 tsp sugar

2-4 tsp of your favorite herbs.

Mix together. Stores well in refrigerator.

Vodka Sauce

2 T olive oil

1/2 c chopped onion

1 clove garlic, chopped

28 oz plum tomatoes

1/2 c vodka

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 c heavy cream, room temperature

Dash of salt

2 T or more grated fresh parmesan cheese

2 T parsley

Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic and saute until soft. Stir in tomatoes, vodka and red pepper. Simmer 15 minutes. Add heavy cream, salt, Parmesan and parsley. Serve over your favorite pasta. Can be frozen before adding cream.

Mildred’s Cheese Fondue

4 T butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 lb shredded cheese (any combination Swiss and sharp cheddar)

1/4 c white wine

1 c ginger ale

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Melt butter, Add salt, paprika, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly add cheese, wine, ginger ale and eggs. Serve with cubed bread.

Shirley’s Blueberry Buckle

3/4 c sugar

1/4 c shortening

1 egg

1/2 c milk

2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

Topping

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 c flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c soft butter

Mix in order given. Pour into greased square baking pan. Combine topping ingredients, crumble over top. Bake 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.

Jake’s Version of Ruth’s Peanut Butter Pie (Parfait)

8 oz cream cheese, softened

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 c creamy peanut butter

2 T lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1 c whipping cream, whipped with a little sugar or 14 oz whipped topping

Combine all ingredients and spoon into parfait glasses. Drizzle with chocolate syrup. This recipe is originally for a pie. Filling may be served in a graham cracker or baked crust.

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