September 2000

The Amazing Melba Seibold

by Joseph RADDER

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We met Melba Seibold this past June at Coordinated Care’s Prime Time Awards reception, where she was recognized as a past award recipient. I regret not having met her sooner for she is truly an amazing person.

When Melba Seibold was teaching music at Cleveland Hill Elementary School there was a disastrous fire at the school in 1954. Several children died in the fire, but Melba Seibold put self-preservation aside and helped save the lives of 24 children. Now, 46 years later, she still suffers from the smoke inhalation and burns experienced in the fire. She has had surgery eight times and still bears the scars of her burns.

Constantly smiling in spite of her pain, Melba credits her cheerful outlook to the fact that she’s always working with people...helping others wherever she can. “They give me so much love,” she says. Obviously, the people she helps are returning the love she gives them.

Melba Seibold retired from teaching in 1960 to be with her husband, Richard Seibold, full-time. Twenty-one years her senior, Richard had been her music teacher at Bennett High School.

After Melba’s retirement and during Richard’s senior years, they traveled extensively in the United States, Alaska and Europe. He was doing research on his Swiss ancestry. “Accounts of some of our trips to Switzerland read like detective stories,” she says.

By 1980, Richard’s health required more care than a disabled Melba was able to give him and so he was admitted to the Niagara Lutheran Home and Rehab Center. He received such great care there that Melba was moved to do what she could to help the home. They were short of pianists at the time, so she substituted at all the home’s music services. Soon the Lutheran home administrators asked her to be their permanent organist. It wasn’t long before she saw other opportunities to help. She started sing-alongs and programs at the home and was soon asked to go to other nursing homes to lead the singing, a request she responded to cheerfully.

Eventually time took its toll and Melba was no longer able to continue this kind of activity. But that didn’t stop her from being a great friend to the Lutheran Church and its service to the aging. She had given large cash gifts, several organs, several pianos, two big busses to transport residents and air conditioning for the auditorium at the new GreenField Health and Rehabilitation Center. In return, the Lutheran Home Foundation has designated the auditorium at GreenField, The Melba Y. Seibold Chapel/Auditorium.

Over the summer months, she is frequently hostess to the Lutheran Home residents from GreenField and the Hager Street facility at her home in Bowmansville, where she puts on picnics on the spacious grounds. “That’s one reason we needed the buses,” she says “to bring the residents to my picnics.”

Needless to say, Melba Y. Seibold has received many awards and citations. One of these, which evokes a loving smile of pride is the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. She is quick to point out that Wilson Greatbatch of Clarence, inventor of the portable pacemaker, also received this award. Another award Melba Seibold received was the Friendship Award from the Niagara Lutheran Rehab Center. This November Melba will be honored by the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives when she receives their Philanthropist of the Year Award.

Asked about other memories, Melba told us she is currently writing a journal of 50 or 60 anecdotes from her life experience. She promised to share these with us for a future article.

Western New York in general and the Niagara Lutheran Rehab Centers in particular are fortunate indeed to be blessed with Melba Seibold.

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.


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