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Glen and Verla Henry prepare a meal to deliver for Meals on Wheels. The couple started volunteering for Meals on Wheels, a program operated out of the Union County Senior Center, about 25 years ago. Verla said it all began when she used to go with her mother to the center, then located in the Methodist Church. submitted photo
by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer
Couple in their 90s deliver Meals on Wheels, say key for happiness is to stay busy
The next time you’re feeling a little gloomy about advancing age and the quick passage of time, think about Glen and Verla Henry.
Glen, 92, and Verla, 90, never let it get them down. They just drive on — for Meals on Wheels.
“We come in, help box up the meals and then we deliver them. I do the driving, and Verla helps me do it,” Glen said.
These nonagenarians have been a couple since 1940, when Glen was doing ranch and sawmill work in Wallowa County, and Verla was a young girl not long out of high school. Glen was from Clarkston, Wash., but loved the Wallowa country and spent all the time he could there. Verla was a Wallowa County native not long out of high school and heavily involved in church activities. They met at a church function, and hit it off.
They married in 1940, moved to Texas for six years, then decided to return to Northeast Oregon. There’s wasn’t much work for Glen in Wallowa County at the time, so the couple looked to Union County. Glen, mechanically handy, landed a job with Goss Motors.
He did other things, too. For a while he worked at a mill in Alicel, then at a wrecking yard, and then at Roy Farnam Supply. Finally, he got a job as a rural postal carrier and kept it until he retired in 1985. He and Verla raised five children.
Some people say the key to happiness in old age is to stay busy, and Verla and Glen subscribe to that. About 25 years ago, they started volunteering for Meals on Wheels, a program operated out of the Union County Senior Center. Verla said it all began when she used to go with her mother to the center, then located in the Methodist Church.
“She had to go there, and we got involved that way,” Verla said.
A couple named Ralph and Phyllis Hart were Meals on Wheels volunteers in those days, but they were snowbirds who lived in the area just part of the year. Glen and Verla saw a way to make themselves useful.
“They’d go south for the winter. We carried on in their place and we kept it up,” said Verla.
And they’ve kept it up to the present day. They’re two of about 15 people working in the program, which is now operated by Community Connection out of the senior center at Albany Street and Cove Avenue. The volunteers deliver meals five days a week to elderly folks in La Grande, North Powder, Union and Elgin.
According to Meals on Wheels Coordinator Sydney Gleeson, providing hot nutritious meals for the homebound is but one of the program’s objectives. Another is to provide shut-ins with human contact.
“Lots of times, Meals on Wheels are the only contacts these people have,” Gleeson said.
Glen and Verla both help package meals. When they hit the road, Glen drives while Verla navigates and takes care of paperwork. Both understand their roles as friends to the elderly.
“I remember once I knocked on a woman’s door, and I heard her calling that she couldn’t get up. We went around and got inside and got her up,” Glen said.
Added Verla, “Sometimes those people haven’t seen anyone all day, and we’re all they have.”
Glen said delivering the meals is rewarding work and helps keep him feeling young.
“It gives me exercise, especially in the winter when I can’t work outside. I get tired of sitting in the house, so I enjoy doing this,” he said.
Verla said she’s happy to go where her husband does.
“I don’t do much of the exercise part because I have a little trouble getting around. We just go together and do things,” she said.
Even though they’re in their nineties, the Henrys said they don’t have plans to quit their work anytime soon.
“I think it’s one reason I’m in pretty good health. We’ll do it as long as we’re able,” Glen said.