Dorrance woman finds friends and shares stories around the table



By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Velma Siefers says she doesn't like to eat alone. So ... she doesn't.

Like clockwork, the 85-year-old Dorrance woman shows up at the Made From Scratch cafe in Wilson morning and evening for her favorite meal -- oatmeal.

Oatmeal for dinner, too?

"Yes, I like it," she said. "And, it makes me feel good."

What also brings a sparkle to Velma's eyes is striking up a conversation with her.

"I just love people," she said as she starts to tell a story.

And, it's an interesting one.

After working as the post office clerk in Dorrance for more than 40 years, "they cut my hours."

Not one to sit at home twiddling her thumbs, Velma went to work at the local school as a secretary for 32 more years.

She already had reached the age of 70 when she retired from the Dorrance school system.

But that didn't stop her from remaining active, she says as she sits at the same table she occupies every day.

Not surprisingly, she usually doesn't have to give them her order, although sometimes she'll stray from "the usual."

"Once in a while, I'll eat a pancake," she said. "Sometimes mashed potatoes and chicken."

And occasionally Velma will stay put in Dorrance and eat at the Old 40 Bar and Grill, a local establishment.

Most days, though, if someone wants to find Velma, they won't have to look farther than the Made From Scratch cafe.

"It's good on my stomach," she said. "As you get old, you know how it is."

Age is just a number to Velma, who will turn 86 on July 5.

"My uncle was born on the third of July," she said, "and he used to tease me and say I was the firecracker without the fuse."

Not exactly.

Velma and her husband, Orvalle Siefers, raised a son and three daughters while working alongside each other for 30-some years in the post office, where Orvalle served as postmaster.

It was through working with the public all those years that led the Siefers couple to eating out so often, Velma said.

"When he retired, he enjoyed going out, especially at night," she said, "because he enjoyed people. That was all right with me, because I cooked a lot when my kids were at home."

Although only 6 miles separates Dorrance and Wilson on Old U.S. Highway 40, Velma rented an apartment in Wilson a few years ago to be nearer her husband when he lived in the rest home there.

After Orvalle died in 2009, Velma returned to her home in Wilson and continued her daily trek between the small central Kansas towns.

She makes the trip at least three times most days, eating lunch at the Wilson Senior Center.

"I still like to drive, although my kids don't want me driving further than that," Velma said of the distance between Dorrance and Wilson.

"And," she said with a chuckle, "I have to listen to my kids."

She listens to a lot of conversations at Made From Scratch, and gets in her share of talking as well.

It's a practice she doesn't plan on changing any time soon.

"I just love to talk," Velma said. "I think that's from being around people."