Teacher, wife, pilot, mother, children's book author these are but a few of the defining characteristics of a life well-lived and a woman well-loved by her family, friends and those who care for her each and every day.

Verdella was born and raised in small community in Bruce County near Paisley. She went to school in a one-room school house until she left home to go to high school. That's when she knew that teaching was something she would like to do.

She was a school teacher for 33 years teaching grades 1-4 at Brock Road Public School in Guelph. She also taught at a reform school two nights a week and Saturdays.

"These were boys who were involved in criminal activities. Some of them had been convicted of murder," she recalls. "But that didn't really phase me. I enjoyed teaching them."

She remembers vividly one night when they were doing a spelling game of words that began with a silent p like pneumatic and pneumonia when the power went out. “The boys thought that they were done we didn't have to continue but I told them different. We definitely didn't stop because of the lights going out.” That was how Verdella roles - on her terms or not at all.

During her time teaching, she also raised two boys of her own and spent two years teaching on an air force base in Germany in 1959 and 1960. When she came back, that is when she decided she wanted to learn to fly airplanes.

"My brother-in-law was a pilot so I thought it would be fun to do that too. I used money I earned from my second teaching job, a whopping $5 an hour, to pay for my lessons and license."

Verdella, and a friend who also had her pilot's license, used to rent a plane and go flying around Niagara Falls. She often rented a plane from Waterloo Regional Airport to go on little flying adventures. But it was the experience of taking some of her students flying in the morning before school that stands out most for her.

"I would take kids flying between 7 and 8 in the morning. Then I would get ready for school. They really enjoyed it. I remember one little grade two girl who was a bit anxious about flying. I told her that if she was at the gate in the morning we would go flying and if not, that was fine. Sure enough she was there in the morning dressed in a little pink dress. She looked so cute. That morning was cloudy and we flew just above the clouds and watched the rain fall below us. We then flew through the cloud and her eyes grew as large as saucers. She had a great science lesson that morning."

Verdella has been at Harriston for the past 10 years following a stroke that limits the movement of her right arm. She attends restorative care where staff help her with her mobility. But nothing gets in the way of what Verdella likes to do. She has written several children's books that she loves to share with staff and their families. She writes about numbers and lonely garbage cans left out in the cold. She has written a novel about a red headed boy who takes a job modelling underwear on TV to help pay for his dad's costly medication. And then there's the book about how H Makes a Noise.

When she's not writing books, she's reading them to pass the time.

"They treat me well here," she says. "I like the people. They are like family."

Image of Verdella smiling

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