MIAMI COUNTY — People come and people go, especially when it comes to patronizing businesses. But Virginia Schafer has been a faithful client of the same hair salon for more than 40 years.
The sprightly 93-year-old, who makes the drive from her St. Paris home each week to have her locks washed and set at the Upper Valley Career Center’s salon, said she enjoys interacting with the students in the cosmetology program, as well as giving them the needed experience for their trade.
Schafer began visiting the Career Center in 1975, when it was still known as JVS.
“I had a granddaughter who was in cosmetology and they liked to work on live heads, so I came over,” she said.
“Everyone was so friendly and I liked the people, so even after my granddaughter graduated, I just kept coming. Plus, it gives me a chance to come into town.”
Schafer has been coming to the Career Center so long that she’s lost count of how many students she’s seen pass through the school’s doors — “A lot!” she said emphatically — and she’s even seen at least one of them go on to work there as an instructor.
“I graduated in 1981 and I used to do her hair,” said Gina Griesdorn, who has taught at the Career Center for 13 years. “She’s such an inspiration to all the students, makes them feel so comfortable, and gives off positive vibes. I hope I have that energy when I’m 93.”
But Schafer is so much more than a nonagenarian and a salon customer. She’s a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an avid card player, a traveler, and incredibly, a sky diver.
“I went skydiving when I turned 90,” she said with a twinkle in her eye at the memory. “It was kind of a thrill. It was like falling out of a 20-story building.”
Born in Dayton, Schafer moved to St. Paris with her parents as a small child. She graduated high school in 1941, and married the following year. Her husband, Donald, worked in the newspaper business, operating the printing press for papers including the St. Paris Dispatch and the Springfield News-Sun.
During wartime, Schafer took an office job at Wright Field (which many know as “Area B” of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). Later, she worked as a librarian until 1953, when her first child was born.
“We were married for 11 years with no children, so we put in for adoption and guess what? I got pregnant,” Schafer said, chuckling. “I had six kids in seven years. At one point, we had three cribs at once!”
She and Donald, who passed away 13 years ago, raised four sons and two daughters. David, Cindy, Kevin, Rick, Greg, and Susan are now spread out around Ohio and in Georgia, but still come home for holidays, including Schafer’s favorite: “Easter, because the weather’s nice.”
The couple loved traveling, taking several cross-country trips together.
“We saw a lot of places … California, Mt. Rushmore, the White Sands in Alamogordo, N.M.,” she recalled.
When she’s not getting her hair done or spending time with her children, 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, Schafer keeps busy with a variety of activities.
“I’m not ready to go sit down in some one-bedroom apartment,” she said with a wave of her hand. “I go to the Methodist church in St. Paris. I’m in Eastern Star and the Red Hats. I also like playing bid Euchre.
“I also like to read — I like historical novels, travel and Danielle Steele — and I play Solitaire on the computer. Sometimes I watch TV — the news, ‘60 Minutes,’ ‘The View’ and ‘Dr. Phil’ … there are some crazy people on that show!”
Schafer can’t guarantee she’ll go skydiving on July 1 — her 94th birthday — but she knows one thing for sure: the Career Center can continue to count on her patronage.
“They need the experience,” she said. “And as long as someone shampoos me, I have it made!”
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341