Verna’s mission: 100 years filled with good cooking, service

July 2018 Posted in Other
Verna Scharbach and daughter Susan at the surprise party thrown by Mission Benedict for her 100th birthday

Verna Scharbach, centenarian. Melissa Wagoner

 

By Melissa Wagoner

Verna Scharbach celebrated her 100th trip around the sun on Friday, June 22 surrounded by an estimated 75 family and friends. The gathering was held at Mission Benedict and was a complete surprise to an astonished and humbled Scharbach.

“I was totally surprised,” she said. “I never dreamed of anything like that.”

Scharbach’s life has been one of joyful service – as a daughter, mother, school cook and volunteer – and she takes pride in every role.

“I don’t want to do anything unless it’s helping somebody,” she said by way of explanation.

Scharbach was born in Mount Angel only a few blocks from the house she and her first husband, August, built when she was 17 in 1936 – and where she lives to this day. The second of nine children, she was only able to attend school through age 13, when it became necessary for her to help at home.

“My mother, she was sick at the time with my brother,” she remembered.

One of Scharbach’s primary jobs became working in the kitchen, where she developed a life-long love of baking.

“When we were kids we had a pie or cake or cookies every day,” Susan, Scharbach’s daughter said. “We had to enlist our friends to help us eat it all.”

Raising four children, Scharbach said baking was her way of making sure her children felt cared for.

“I loved to do it,” she confided. “My family was the most important thing to me. I might have been a stern mother but I loved them so much.”

Scharbach’s skills in the kitchen became well known in the community and when her first husband passed away she was offered a job as school cook.

“The principal said, ‘We want you to cook at the school’ and I said, ‘I can’t cook’ and he said, ‘that’s not what I heard,’” she laughed.

Scharbach was employed with the school for the next 16 years, making seven loaves of bread every day on a wood stove – and she loved every minute of it.

“I’m so grateful I had the job,” Scharbach said. “I loved it. The kids were joyful.”

Scharbach’s life has also been filled with varied interests. She excelled at both ballroom dancing and polka and met her second husband, Gay Menke, dancing.

“My second husband, he was a peach,” Scharbach grinned. “He treated me like a queen every day.”

In her fifties Scharbach added another hobby, one she avidly partakes in to this day – community service.

“I do it because I love volunteering,” she explained. “I work with the most wonderful people.”

Beginning as a volunteer at the Mount Angel Senior Center, Scharbach also helped to organize what would become Mission Benedict – a donation center offering clothing, housewares and pantry items to the Mount Angel area.

“To stay healthy and happy you have to be busy,” she said. “Human beings need to have somebody care, no matter who it is and what nationality they are. A person needs to be appreciated.”

Scharbach said her work at Mission Benedict is not only the way she maintains a social life but may be a key to her incredible longevity.

The volunteers at Benedict Mission certainly appreciate Scharbach and
she them.

“I don’t mind getting old because I have so many nice people and I’m happy,”
she said with a smile.

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