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Tuesday November 24, 2009 Edition
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Full of Surprises and Fun: Sharing Memories And a Passion for Life with Beverly Stearns

Beverly Stearns proudly shows off some of her racing flags from her races in the 1970’s at Catamount and Thunder Road.
photo provided
Beverly Stearns proudly shows off some of her racing flags from her races in the 1970’s at Catamount and Thunder Road.
Exquisite tosee and time consuming to make, one of Beverly’s passions is intricate cross stitch projects for friends and family.
photo provided
Exquisite tosee and time consuming to make, one of Beverly’s passions is intricate cross stitch projects for friends and family.

Tuesday November 24, 2009

By Cookie Steponaitis

    The scene could well have originated from a Victorian postcard. Working at a table with a lit lamp the craftswoman painstakingly makes a stitch on the embroidered piece before her. Glancing up from her work she smiles and invites you to join her. Gazing at the intricate scene of angels and praying hands there is a moment of reflection and pause for the skill shown and the detail of the work. Meeting the gaze of the craftsperson, you catch a twinkle in her eyes and a smile that suddenly leads you to know that this interview is about to go off to the races: literally!

     Beverly Stearns was not always skilled in embroidery and actually did not even take up the craft until her retirement in the late 1980’s. Beverly was born at home on the farm in Monkton in 1943.  Beverly was one of five kids and loved “…working on the farm, but not in the house side of the chores. We milked fifty or so cows,” Beverly shared, “and had an old-fashioned milking machine. The chores got divided up and my sisters took the inside chores, which was just fine by me. I loved working in the barn, in the fields and out of doors. I loved motors, engines and equipment.”

     While Beverly is a latecomer to the intricate needlework and beautiful creations she is now famous for including cross stitch, embroidery, afghans, and gifts for friends and family, she was always talented with her hands and had a desire to spontaneously follow her passions. “My brother-in-law George used to take us to the car races at Catamount in Milton and Thunder Road in Barre. It was about my second time there when I knew that was what I really wanted to do. We raced ‘57 Chevy’s and I had a 1960 Chevy. For a $3.00 fee, we entered the feature races that were then 20-25 laps at 75-80 miles an hour. I was hooked. Mom and dad had a fit, but I loved it.”

     Beverly’s love of auto racing extended far beyond the years she raced at Catamount and Barre’s Thunder Road. “Some of the male drivers used to give me some comments,” she remembered. “Back then there weren’t hardly women at all and as I drove past they would holler women’s lib.” While Beverly admits to being one of the first female drivers in the state, for her it was simply about a love of cars, speed and the mechanics of it all and with the help of retired racer and teammate Charles Benoit, Thunder Road was home to Beverly on Thursday and Sunday nights during the 1970’s. Watching her animation as she shares stories of the races is pure fun and demonstrates just how passionate about life Beverly is. “I remember my father had this old car in a shed on the farm,” she remarked. “I just wanted to take it apart, piece by piece to see how it worked and why. That old Pontiac taught me a lot about mechanics and gave me my love of cars. The sound of them running, even today, is music to my ears.” A regular at Thunder Road in the summer, Beverly has a favorite current driver and shared a framed photo of Phil Scot and his number 14. “You know,” she commented, “I have learned over the years to become involved with things that interest me and to read, learn and do. Getting used to that ¼ mile track was incredible. It goes by so fast and it really took some getting used to.”

     Glancing around Beverly’s home you immediately see testimony to the other diverse passions in her life, many of which have been pursued since her retirement. While she was not into the domestic part of life on the farm, her cooking has earned her as much acclaim at family gatherings and locally as her cross stitching and crafts. “My cookbook collection is well over two hundred books,” she explained. “And I have tried recipes from all of them.” While getting ready for the upcoming holidays and family gatherings of three generations of nieces and nephews, Beverly explained that her all time favorite recipe was Golden Potato Surprise. “It really sounds crazy,” she remarked, “but the taste is so good.”

     Another family tradition that has taken hold was actually started by her sister Patricia Lavalette from Charlotte. Each year the sisters plan and carry out Victorian Tea Parties. Dressed in Victorian costumes, the two cook and serve a full holiday dinner to guests and they play games from the era. “We usually plan it for the second week of December,” Beverly commented. “It really is a lot of fun and gives people a chance to slow down and enjoy the holidays. It is all about family, fun and food.”

     While Beverly admits she does work 8-10 hours a day on her cross stitch and embroidery projects for friends and family, she makes time for her church activities and her other two passions as well. “I started the electric guitar in the 1960’s,” Beverly remembered. “I have always loved music and have a huge collection of music from the 1950’s, country and even some classical. I used to play with my sister Pat, who plays keyboard and recently we have been getting back into it. I really am a spontaneous kind of person. I don’t sit around and I just do love to be busy.”

    Walking into the back workroom of her home you will find a computer that sits in the corner with a manuscript neatly stacked in front of it. When asked about the work Beverly just smiles and adds, “Well, I have been writing since I was a teenager. I love to write fiction novels, based on the actual events of the race track in Vermont. This story I have just finished and really should see about getting it published. It is based on the events of my own driving and other drivers and set at Thunder Road.”  In just over an hour with Beverly, any misconceptions about this quiet and reserved Vermonter are dispelled by the transformation into a dynamic woman who balances her passions for automobiles, family, church, cooking , writing and painstaking cross stitch and has found retirement a blessing as a time to fit it all in.

    “Follow your interests,” Beverly challenges others. “ If you don’t seem to have any, find some. Enjoy life. It is here for only a short time and every minute should be well lived.” Well lived indeed. The Valley Voice salutes the passionate approach to life of Beverly Stearns and encourages all of the readers to take the time to embrace gifts known and explore those yet undiscovered. “Not what you expected,” grinned Beverly as the interview came to a close. “Things in life seldom are what they seem.”

One of Beverly’s favorites recipes:

Golden Potato Surprise

4-5 medium white potatoes peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium red onions, chopped.
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender; Drain and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Sauté onions until soft; stir in flour, thyme salt and pepper. Gradually add crèmes, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.
Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Add mustard & mayonnaise.
Stir until well mixed and smooth. Place potatoes in a 1.5 quart casserole, cover with sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with bacon. Enjoy!

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