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Aline Stem, a woman of diverse accomplishments, dies at 92

In 1957, Dr. James Stem entered the Tampa Tarpon Tournament. The Clearwater pediatrician brought along his wife, who seemed to enjoy fishing.

Aline Stem surprised her husband by landing the biggest tarpon of the tournament.

Her prize: a year's diaper service.

The male winner, whose fish was smaller, took home a new rod and reel and a loaded tackle box.

In those years Mrs. Stem worked as a nurse in her husband's office. She would go on to serve as the first director of Play Parc School, a precursor to UPARC.

In between she helped new staffers get acclimated to the United Arab Emirates, where James Stem served as pediatrics director for a hospital. Duties included picking them up at the airport — at a time when men were not used to seeing a woman behind the wheel.

"They would almost wreck turning around," said Allison Wheaton, her daughter.

Mrs. Stem died Sunday at the Tampa home of her son Jim, where she had been living for more than three years. She was 92.

She was born Aline Mitchell in Pine Bluff, Ark., in 1921, the eldest of four children. An early adulthood was forced upon her at age 13, when her mother died of cancer. She later earned a nursing degree from the University of Tennessee. Among her patients was medical student James Stem, who had the measles.

They married and settled in Clearwater, where Dr. Stem set up one of the city's first pediatric practices in 1948. After years as his nurse, Mrs. Stem took the helm at Play Parc School, a place where she brought her own children to play.

Her ability to put others at ease worked to her advantage.

"She had a razor sharp sense of humor," said Wheaton, 57. "It could border on the irreverent a little bit behind closed doors."

The Stems joined the Casado Club, Clearwater's oldest social club for married couples, meeting monthly for pot lucks or more formal events.

"It was such a good time," said Berry Rives, 89, a friend of 65 years.

Mrs. Stem collected objects from her home to bring to the school, including old toys, to use in arts and crafts.

The marriage remained strong. "They were lovebirds their whole lives," her daughter said.

The couple lived in the United Arab Emirates from 1980 to 1984, then resettled in Floral City. Mrs. Stem volunteered for the historical museum, often procuring artifacts from families who were clearing out estates after a death.

Dr. Stem died in 2008. Mrs. Stem lived with Wheaton in Georgia before moving to Tampa.

Wheaton was still an infant when her mother won the tarpon tournament. All the same, Mrs. Stem declined the women's prize.

"She told them to keep their diapers," said Jim Stem, 66, Mrs. Stem's son and a former Times photographer. "They changed the rules the next year."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248.

.Biography

Aline Mitchell Stem

Born: Sept. 30, 1921

Died: Nov. 10, 2013

Survivors: sons James, Barry and Michael Stem; daughter Allison Wheaton; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral Mass: 10:30 a.m. today; St. Cecilia Catholic Church; 820 Jasmine Way, Clearwater.

Aline Stem, a woman of diverse accomplishments, dies at 92 11/14/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 14, 2013 8:48pm]
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