Stumpf’s legacy aids seniors - Republic-Times | News

Stumpf’s legacy aids seniors

By on April 11, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Pat Stumpf

After three decades of providing healthy meals and a place for senior citizens to occupy their time, Columbia senior center director Pat Stumpf knew it was time to retire.

But one key piece of the puzzle was missing for the dozens of seniors who utilized the center’s services each week. With the city of Columbia looking to take over the space inside City Hall the center utilized in the last six years, the seniors would need a new place to call home.

“Our last day at City Hall was Sept. 30 and I still didn’t know where we were going to go. (Fr. Carl Scherrer, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church pastor) called and said, ‘Guess what? You can move in here,’” she said.

Stumpf, 68, had reached out to Scherrer shortly before that, ensuring the senior center could continue as it had for years. The seniors now meet inside the new church at 411 Palmer Road.

“They’re so supportive here. It’s a really good place to be,” she said of the new location, adding, “This is a space where we can grow. We’ve got a whole room here. It’s really nice.”

In her 31 years as director, Stumpf faced some adversity as she steadfastly advocated for seniors. The senior center opened in 1977 at St. Paul United Church of Christ Columbia and has moved a total of 10 times since inception.

Stumpf has been there for a total of seven moves, including the most recent one. Some of the moves were because the entities leasing space to the center would end up growing and needing to use that space.

“We’ve had so many moves. But most of the time we’ve been asked to leave has been for a good reason,” she said. 

But at least one move was due to a catastrophe. In 1993, the flood that tore through Valmeyer also bore destruction on the senior center’s meeting space at Metter Park in Columbia.

Stumpf recalled being in a meeting with the Columbia Boy Scouts when the storm hit. When she came to check on the center the next day, Stumpf was devastated by what she found.

“When I opened the doors the next day, all I could see on the first few steps leading down was mucky water. I think we lost everything but the chairs,” she said of the damage.

Recalling the destruction, Stumpf said the flooding had been forceful enough to break the side door to the space and throw her desk into the wall. The fridge had also been tipped over.

“We were lucky no one was there because we would have lost some people. It was that bad,” she said. 

In the month’s time it took Stumpf and the seniors to rebuild, they were fortunate enough to be able to share the Waterloo Senior Center. They then found a more permanent location in St. Paul UCC for the next 14 years.

While Stumpf’s years with the center have been marked with a lot of relocation, she has also managed to give the seniors access to a lot of helpful programs. Stumpf said through the center, seniors can get their license plate renewal fees reduced.

Additionally, health screenings and flu shots are services available through the center, as well as meals, activities and a number of other programs. About 45 to 50 seniors take advantage of meals provided through the center.

Waterloo senior center director Kim Elizalde noted that these centers serve as a last refuge for seniors.

“It’s a place to go for questions. It’s where they can go and talk to other seniors and spend time with people their age,” she said. “Some people don’t have families. So we’re the only people they see.”

When reflecting on Stumpf’s impact on the seniors, Elizalde said she is amazed at how long Stumpf has been director.

“Anyone who’s been in this job for 31 years — she should get a gold medal,” she said. “She’s been fantastic. I know her seniors love her. She’s been there through the course of many changes.”

Throughout that time, many seniors have become Stumpf’s closest friends. She has seen many of them die over the years. 

She has watched them build friendships. In some cases, she has seen them connect with the love of their life.

“I’ve loved meeting new people and becoming their friend. I’m a good listener,” she said. “We’ve lost a lot of good people. It’s sad. But I was glad to have them.

“It’s good to have this place. I’ve even had three people meet their spouses here, which is kind of cool. I think that’s why I’m involved.”

The senior center recently hosted a party for Stumpf to celebrate her retirement — her retirement date was March 29.

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years.