The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Mona Waibel, local city leader, advocate, dies


April 25, 2018

MONA speaks at a celebration of the Sweet Home Police Department's 100th anniversary in 2011.

The Sweet Home community was Mona Waibel's life until she died Tuesday, April 17. She was 88.

Her grandmother was the town's first woman mayor, and Waibel loved telling a story about her rambunctious Grandma Lettie Sankey sitting on a chair in the middle of Highway 20 with a gun in her lap awaiting the day "they" decided it was time to come through and pave it.

Long Street had been the main street back in the day, but the state had different ideas than Mayor Sankey did.

Waibel enjoyed tending massive dahlia gardens with her late husband, Bob Waibel, and she was never far from his side when he played the Rhinestone Logger. They both were very active in the Sweet Home Rock and Mineral Society.

They lived on a large forested property located between Oak Terrace and Ames Creek behind Sweet Home Inn, settled by her great-grandparents who moved in 1882 from Illinois to the west, settling in Sweet Home. Her great-grandmother Martha Thompson won a seat on the City Council in 1914.

Waibel followed in her grandmother's and great-grandmother's footsteps. After serving as the manager at the Chamber of Commerce for eight years and 20 years as director at Linn-Benton Community College Sweet Home Center, Waibel retired and joined the Sweet Home City Council, serving for about eight years.

In 1990, Waibel, along with Jim Riggs, Keith Gabriel, Marge Cardwell Kikel and Lucretia Kitchin Seiber founded Sweet Home Alumni Foundation to raise money for scholarships to help graduating seniors at Sweet Home High School move on to higher education.

Waibel later went on to share her memories and research into Sweet Home history, which included recordings of her great-grandmother's stories in 1953, through a history column in The New Era's 55 Plus, a monthly special section. She later wrote a book, "Sweet Home's Good Old Days," and four followup volumes.

Waibel never served as mayor. She never faced down state transportation officials, but she did ingratiate herself with those who knew her.

Former Mayor Jim Gourley knew her when she worked at the chamber, he said. He was in the Jaycees, and the two groups often interacted. He later served on the City Council with her.

"Mona was an inspiration to everybody who worked with her or who was around her," said Gourley, a former mayor. "She was always very positive and very energetic. There was always something she was interested in.

"Mona was very much a part of Sweet Home. She was always interested in not just the outside of things – she wanted to dig down and make sure everything was working the way it needed to be.

MONA, second from left, was honored in 2015 fas a charter member of Sweet Home Alumni Foundation and elevated to board member emeritus. She is with SHAF Board President Mary Sue Cook Reynolds, left, who replaced her as director of the Linn-Benton Community College Sweet Home Extension, and board members Shauna Melcher McIntyre and Abby Murray Virtue Hagle.

"She was so knowledgeable about everything and always had a story. The stories were always pertinent to what you were doing."

Waibel was Sweet Home's historian, with an inspiring attitude and a deep knowledge of Sweet Home, Gourley said. "She always looked the part of a glamorous person whether she felt like it or not."

"Mona was absolutely awesome," said Craig Fentiman, another former mayor. "The only thing Mona ever wanted was what was best for the city, whatever she could do to make the city better. She loved this place. She was easy to work with. She was always pleasant even when she was having a bad day. She put everything into it that she could right up until the end."

"She was the history of the community," said former Mayor Tim McQueary. "I used her time and time again. What a wonderful person. She was marvelous, and being able to ask her how did this happen or that happen, it's a great loss.

"She was always involved. I never knew Mona to not be involved. She just had an interest in all the best for the community. We're all better for having had her in our lives."


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