SWEET HOME — Every family needs a cheerleader, someone who believes in them unconditionally and will fight to make things better, no matter how difficult that may be at times.
Mona Waibel’s family was the community of Sweet Home.
The vibrant, hard-working and seemingly always cheerful Waibel lived on the property on Oak Terrace her entire life and although she visited more than 40 countries around the world, she always came home to the town she loved and nurtured.
Waibel died April 17 and the community not only lost one of its most faithful cheerleaders, but also one of its most prolific historians. For years, the 88-year-old Waibel, who graduated from Sweet Home High School in 1948, wrote a weekly history column for the community’s weekly newspaper, The New Era.
She also authored five books, all of which were titled “Sweet Home’s Good Old Days,” followed by a volume number. Each book looked at different community sectors and time periods such as the heyday of logging, schools, settler families and more.
She wrote about the area’s colorful characters, Frontier Days, Sportsman’s Holiday and the Calapooia Round-Up that was once held near Crawfordsville and welcomed cowboys from throughout the west, as well as native Americans who brought ponies and crafts to sell.
Proceeds from her books were donated to the East Linn Museum.
“Of all the sources for stories during my 33 years at the Democrat-Herald, Mona Waibel certainly ranked among my favorites,” said former managing editor Graham Kislingbury. “I always enjoyed — and learned something new — talking with Mona and her husband, Bob. She was so interested in history, especially Sweet Home history, as well as current events.”
Kislingbury said that when he wrote a column about looking back at the 20th century near the dawn of the new millennium in December 1999, “Mona provided wonderful anecdotes about her grandmother, who was the first woman mayor of Sweet Home. The memories of Mona make me smile.”
Retired schoolteacher and longtime civic leader Ben Dahlenburg called Waibel, “An ambitious lady. ... She was involved in so many things for Sweet Home.”
Mona was born Estelle Ramona Hyer in Portland on April 1, 1930, to James and Audrey Daugherty Sankey Hyer.
Community service was in her blood. Her grandmother, Lettie Sankey, was the first female mayor of Sweet Home. Her great-grandmother, Martha Thompson, served on the City Council starting in 1914.
Sankey Park is named after her family.
Waibel followed in her grandmother and great-grandmother’s footsteps and served on the City Council from 1991-98. She was the first female member of the Sweet Home Kiwanis Club.
If something good was happening in Sweet Home, it was a sure bet that Waibel was somehow involved. She spearheaded the Chamber of Commerce for years and once recalled for a newspaper story how she would go from business to business soliciting donations to keep the organization afloat.
She was the coordinator of the Sweet Home Center of Linn-Benton Community College for 19 years.
Waibel was active with the Presidents Club, helped develop the Jim Riggs Community Center, was a charter member of the Sweet Home Alumni Foundation — along with fellow 1948 graduate and lifelong friend Jim Riggs — and also created the Mona Waibel Scholarship Fund.
She was instrumental in organizing the 100-year All-School Reunion and with her husband Bob, ran the annual Working Loggers Relays/Loggers Olympics for many years.
She was the first woman to be named a First Citizen in 1980 and was recognized again in 2002 with the community’s Distinguished Service Award. She could be counted on as a volunteer at the Oregon Jamboree and was a faithful member of both the Sweet Home Rock & Mineral Society and the Squarenaders square dance club, belonging to both organizations for more than 40 years.
When Waibel retired from writing her monthly column for The New Era, she told editor and publisher Scott Swanson that she really enjoyed writing about the logging industry.
“I love those old sawmills,” Waibel said. “My favorite things were loggers. My family all logged. My brother and my husband were loggers.”
Swanson thought highly of Waibel the writer and the civic booster.
"Mona was an undying champion for Sweet Home and she loved writing her remembrances of the years she lived here,” Swanson said. “She produced 100 columns for us, over the span of eight years, covering a wider variety of topics than I can list on the spur of the moment — everything from Beulah School in Pleasant Valley to Klondike Kate."
He added that Waibel often gave him the “back story” behind her stories.
Fellow civic booster Alice Grovom met Waibel in 1951 and they became friends because their children were on the same dance club together.
“Mona would run the Chamber of Commerce half of the day and LBCC the other half,” Grovom said. “She also continued her own education while working and raising her family. It took her 10 years, but she got it done.”
Grovom and Waibel traveled together many times, including a four-week trip to Europe.
“Four of us rented a car and even though none of us spoke other languages, Mona would pantomime what we wanted to know and wherever we were, someone would figure it out and give us directions,” Grovom said.
Grovom, who recently received the Distinguished Citizen award at the annual community awards banquet, said it was Waibel who taught her about the value of volunteering.
“She was the greatest volunteer and taught me so much,” Grovom said.
“She was fantastic. Really good indeed,” said former Sweet Home Mayor Craig Fentiman. “Mona’s only concern was what was the best for the city. That was her focus: if she didn’t think it was good for Sweet Home, she wasn’t afraid to put up a fight.”
Fentiman added that Waibel was, “Always smiling, even when things were bad. She breathed life into everything. She was a very uplifting person and a pleasure to work with.”
Waibel’s first husband, Joe Stephenson, died after 11 years of marriage. They had a daughter, Dawn.
In 1961, after meeting at a square dance, she married Robert Waibel, a local logger and logging sports contestant. They had a son, Rob, who followed in his father’s logging sports footsteps.
The elder Waibel’s hobby took the couple around the world to contests in places like New Zealand and Australia and they also enjoyed the adventure of traveling in general, visiting more than 40 countries.
Waibel is survived by her brother, Tom Hyer of Sweet Home; daughter, Dawn and son-in-law Bob Dalton of Sweet Home; a son, Rob Waibel and daughter-in-law Shannon of West Linn; grandchildren: Justin Dalton and his wife, Nicole of Portland; Alecia Dalton of Sweet Home; Xander Waibel and his wife Melody of Portland; Emma Waibel of Portland; and two great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Bob Waibel; brothers Jim and Karel Hyer and Delmer Bryant.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Sweet Home Evangelical Church, 1347 Long St.
Contributions may be made to the Mona Waibel Scholarship Fund in care of the Sweet Home Alumni Foundation, Box 83, Sweet Home, Oregon 97386.