Soon-to-be-106-year-old woman’s advice: ‘Make do with what you have’

Virginia Stackel has five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

MATTHEWS, N.C. — The year 1918 was a monumental year in history. It was the year the Spanish flu pandemic began and World War I finally ended. It was also the year Virginia Stackel was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“I remember the people that had to go and leave their families, some of whom never came back,” Stackel shared about her memory of World War II. “I was a wife and mother, and there were things that we couldn’t have. The children had to be taught you can’t have anything.”

Stackel, who moved to Matthews, North Carolina, in the 1980s with her husband, spent the early part of her life in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Known as the Christmas City, she grew up there before graduating from high school in 1935.
While attending college, Stackel met her future husband Robert while he was attending seminary school in Philadelphia. They both graduated from college and got married soon after.
“The most exciting thing, I guess, it was my wedding,” Stackel said. “I married such a wonderful person and had 52 years with him.”
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They moved a number times mostly because Robert was a Lutheran minister. Eventually, they settled in New Jersey, just outside of New York City where Reverend Stackel served as the first director of the Lutheran Church America World Hunger Appeal, headquartered in the city.
“He became known internationally, but beyond being known, he brought me joy and pleasure and a wonderful life in which to bring up our children,” Stackel shared about her husband Robert.

Stackel has a remarkable memory of some of the biggest events in America’s history.
“I’ve seen an awful lot, and a lot of it is very good, and some of it is not so good, but that’s the way life is,” Stackel shared with Larry Sprinkle. “You do with what you have. I tried to do with what I have. I made mistakes, everybody does, but for the most part, I’ve been pleased with what the Creator has made it possible for me to have.”

Credit: WCNC Charlotte
Virginia Stackel with WCNC Charlotte’s Larry Sprinkle
She remembers how the Great Depression deeply it affected the world and her family. She admitted those times were very difficult, but with a lot of faith in God, they persevered.
“You had to make do with what you have, right?” Stackel recalled of that time. “It’s a lesson we can learn through the years.”

She has three children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. She credits them for her longevity.
“[Our children] grew up to be excellent examples,” Stackel said.
Her oldest son, John, celebrated his 80th birthday on Jan. 7, while she celebrated her 106th birthday. While it’s fun they have the same birthday, Virginia Stackel did joke that he was due a week earlier which meant his late arrival prevented him from being a tax deduction.

“I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed this long,” Stackel said.
She loves to socialize with her neighbors and friends at her retirement home in Matthews. She even drove a car until she was 95 years old.
“And then I said, that’s far enough, I’ve gone far enough, and then I decided it was time to give it up,” Stackel laughed.
Stackel said her mission in life has always been to think of others, to respect who they are and what they believe. She shared that everyone has something special to give, and she definitely lives by that belief.
“Life is your big opportunity to do for others, so I’ve lived trying to do for others,” Stackel said. “You may not be able to do much, but every little bit helps that person, and that person being better than they were can do more for our country and our civilization. We’re given opportunities. We need to use them I could have used some of mine more, but I did, at that point, what I though it was best.”
To be around 106 years old, she proves that humility, kindness and a strong faith can take you a long way. She’s still hopeful for the future and sends one specific prediction into the ether.
“There will come a day when a woman is the president, I do believe,” Stackel said.

Larry asked her if she’d want to be that first woman president since there’s not an age limit, but she curtly responded, “No, I would never want that.”
But her biggest advice is simple.
“I think just trying to be the best person you can be for your age, the best person you can be, ” Stackel shared. “You’ve been given talents from birth, opportunities during your life. Just use them to the best. That’s true for all of us. Until we’re not here anymore. Do the best you can with what you have.”

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