On November 24, 1924, Muriel Stehl was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the youngest of eight children, to Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Converse. Significantly younger than her siblings, Muriel has very few memories of her brothers and sisters.
“I was a child," she recalls. "I never knew the brothers and sisters I had, so I’m somewhat looking forward to the afterlife where I can get to know them better.”
One memory of her childhood that persists, involve one particular day she had spent swimming in a local pond with her siblings. After an afternoon of swimming, her youngest sister, Mary, acquired infantile paralysis. Upon being admitted to the hospital nearby, the family was told that the hospital staff did not expect her to survive. Thinking back, Muriel said, “I lost someone who would have been very close to me.” Muriel recalls an evening seeing her mother frantically gathering things together and beginning to leave their home. She asked where her mother was going and found that she was going to see Mary. Muriel remembers asking to go, too, but her mother refused. “They left without me and I cried. I have no recollection of her, but I knew that they were going to see her. I suppose she had died and they needed to prepare her for burial.”
While her parents were trying to support eight children, there wasn’t a great amount of money left over after dealing with the cost of living. After high school, Muriel enlisted in the United States Navy. While she was at boot camp, she was found to have great talent in her assignments. “I didn’t realize then that it was a gift,” she said. When the time came to either re-enlist or move back home, she packed her things for New York. “I wanted out, but I made a big mistake. I threw my life away because I didn’t want to listen to someone else's rules and regulations.”
Upon arriving home, she went to work for Chermayeff & Geismar, a graphic design firm, specializing in the development of trademarks, print, web and motion graphics, exhibitions, and art in architecture. The company assisted her through schooling at Hunter College, where she was prepared to be a service person. “I was hot for organization,” she said. “Chermayeff was superior to all others in his field.” Muriel served as his secretary, answering phone calls and filtering the ones that he didn’t care to receive. “He was a busy man – always on the phone – so I would ask him if he wanted coffee by writing a note saying ‘Coffee? Check yes or no.’ That worked real well for a while.”
Through her work, she was able to meet a man named George Stehl, a gifted industrial designer. They began seeing each other shortly after meeting. Together, they traveled to South Carolina. While there, they visited a junk shop where Muriel found a fan for fifty cents. “When George saw it, he understood what went into the design. He said I had taste and sensitivity and was worth marrying,” she recalls. The couple married and lived in New York City for a while. George never liked the city. “It’s loaded with ambitious people that are always looking for other people’s errors.”
George became quite fed up with his employer’s lack of talent. He had been receiving letters from a woman who had interest in George’s work. In these letters she told him of Maine and its’ beauty. George decided to visit Maine to have a look. Remembering this, Muriel said, “When he returned home, he said ‘You might as well quit your job. We’re moving to Maine.’"
George passed away in January of 2012. Muriel was left behind in their home in Jonesport. She lived alone for five years before moving into Maine Veterans’ Homes in Machias. She enjoys various activities such as music groups and outings, but most of all, visiting with friends and telling stories of her past.
Thank you, Muriel, for your service to our nation!
Maine Veterans’ Homes is an independent nonprofit organization serving Maine’s veterans and families. For more information, contact Maine Veterans’ Homes online or give us a call at 800-278-9494. We also welcome you and your family to explore employment or volunteer opportunities with us.
Maine Veterans’ Homes…Caring For Those Who Served!