Stillwater News Press

Local Columnists

March 29, 2014

AND, STILL THE WATERS RUN: Stillwater’s people make the difference

When I was a teenager, my family moved to Stillwater after my dad died.  The first day of school, I came home and my mother asked me how it went. I tearily replied, “They wear overalls.” She responded calmly, “Well, we’ll get you some.”  

I was appalled. Why would I wear overalls to school? The thought offended my teenage Yankee sensibilities. After I graduated from Oklahoma State University, I often paraphrased a popular Mac Davis song: “Happiness was Stillwater, Oklahoma, in my rearview mirror.”

In Houston, I frequently crossed paths with OSU graduates. One true Okie, and Houstonian back then, was Dave Lamerton who would always tell me he needed to find some way to get back to “God’s Country.”  I was a little confused when he said it sometimes because he was from Enid —  smack in the middle of the prairie. But he said it wasn’t the landscape — but the “people” in Oklahoma that made it heaven on Earth. I thought about that for the longest time and through changing circumstances, I decided to move my own family back to Stillwater — something I swore I would never do to a teenager in high school. As we crossed the Red River, my daughter rolled her eyes and said, “Mommy there’s not even a mall in Stillwater.”

She was correct – no mall – but with the staff and peers at Stillwater High School, I knew my kids could get a private school education without paying the private school tuition costs. She soon acclimated and after graduating from OSU, she traveled and lived all over the world – but now chooses to live in Enid with frequent visits to Stillwater. It’s the people that made the difference for her, too.

“People” are what sells Stillwater to highly trained technical recruits that Steve Irby, founder of KICKER, needs to run his business. He told me in an interview last June for the Stillwater News Press Progress Edition that “we don’t have mountain vistas or big city life to attract and retain employees . . . what keeps them here is the people.”

One of those people is Phyllis Mantik deQuevedo, KICKER marketing communications manager. Originally from Canada, she has made Stillwater her home for nearly 20 years. When she married, she sold her house and moved to Oklahoma City, commuting to Stillwater for her job. Soon afterward, she bought her house back because she missed her time here.

“Stillwater may not have all the things that big cities have — but the people make it home,” she said. “It’s an incredibly friendly place.”

Phyllis is also an artist and created the bronze sculpture of Angie Debo in front of the Stillwater Public Library. Born in 1890, Debo was only 9-years-old when she came by covered wagon with her family to the community of Marshall in Oklahoma Territory. As a keen observer of people she chose a life of a scholar rather than what was expected of a woman of her time. She spent most of her life working in Stillwater, retiring from OSU with the Edmon Low Library housing her lifetime of research about Native Americans and personal papers after her death. When many had scorned her books, Debo found a welcoming home in Stillwater.

Every Sunday in the Lifestyle section “And, Still the Waters Run,” will tell more stories about people. Overall, that’s what makes the place. Join others in the community at several gatherings this week. Enjoy a hearty vegetable soup and some ice cream with tales from a Japanese storyteller at the First Presbyterian Church Sunday night. Starting Monday, events are happening every day for Stillwater High School’s SMAC Week. The party of the season, “Music . . . A State of Art” will feature the talents of OSU faculty and studio music students, food by Chef Ben Coffin and great works of art when Russ Teubner opens “Backstage,” a premiere downtown hospitality venue. Stop by the OSU Music Department office Monday to make the reservation deadline for some serious people watching Saturday night.

Elizabeth Keys writes for the Stillwater News Press. “And, Still the Waters Run” will tell stories about the people in Stillwater. Check for more events in Stillwater. Email events, photos or news tips to  Call her at 405-372-5000, extension 236.  


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