March 12, 2010

OBITUARIESEsther Shuman-Stailing, 44, warm-hearted day care providerThis is a 6-column headyne for dummy type

— PASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.SOUTH PORTLAND — Esther Shuman-Stailing, who ran Cuddles To Grow On, a home-based day care center in South Portland, died Monday. She was 44.

Mrs. Shuman-Stailing operated the day care business with her mother for the past six years. Some days, she cared for as many as 12 children, ranging from infants to preschool-age.

She brought parents relief and made each child feel loved, said Amelia Kurtz, who brought her son to the day care center when he was an infant.

''She (had so much) love and sheer goodness,'' said Kurtz, of Scarborough. ''She showed us how to love our families unconditionally and put our kids above everything else.

''She showed us through her example. She was such a natural. You just knew that she was meant to care for and love these little people.''

Mrs. Shuman-Stailing opened the day care business when her two children were young.

Then, she became the office manager for DownEast Coffee in Portland. She worked for the company for 10 years. Her husband, David Stailing, a police officer in South Portland, said she loved her work.

''She was the glue that held the office together. She was organized and meticulous,'' he said.

''She came into the job and that place was a mess. She organized it and made it so efficient. When she was laid off, the boss called her back and re-offered her the job. He wanted to give her a raise, but she held her ground.''

At the time, their son was young, so she decided to reopen her day care business.

Her husband said the children loved her, and she treated them like her own.

''It didn't matter if they were screaming or had a cold, she nurtured them and gave the kids the love they needed,'' he said.

Her daughter, Tara Levesque, 19, now runs the business.

''Esther wanted this for Tara. She was so proud of her,'' Stailing said.

She was diagnosed with cancer in November. Her husband said that during her illness, the kids would go to her bedroom to visit her. He said she fought her illness with grace and courage.

''She was the greatest wife. She did anything for me. It's hard being married to a police officer for various reasons, but she adapted to my work schedule and the pressures of my job. She supported me. We had an unbelievable life together,'' Stailing said.

Mrs. Shuman-Stailing and her husband were married for 12 years. They had four children.

''The most heartbreaking thing is, my son won't have his mother,'' he said. ''She lived her life for her children and for me.''

-- Melanie Creamer

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