We’ve all heard about bonds that can’t be broken. Betty Erickson and Avis DeBerg share that kind of bond with their sister, Sybil Schafer. “We were really close. We did everything together,” Erickson told the Foundation. “Sybil and I even got married together. Dad walked us both down the aisle – one on each side.” The three sisters were teachers for years. As couples, they traveled together with their husbands and when they didn’t, they would take turns traveling and one couple would do chores for the other. Avis and Sybil even lived on the same farm for four decades after Sybil married Ervin, brother of Avis’ first husband, Kenneth Schafer.
Erickson and Deberg treasure that special bond as well as the passions Sybil and her husband, Ervin, shared. Those passions will be supported forever through the couple’s funds at the Watertown Area Community Foundation. The Ervin H. and Sybil E. Schafer Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships to students from Florence and Watertown entering an ag-related field at Lake Area Technical Institute. The Ervin H. and Sybil Schafer Fund is a field of interest fund which will support historical activities in the Watertown area.
Sybil was married to Donald Pugh from 1955 to 1960 at which time he passed away from a heart attack. They had lost an infant son just days before.
Sybil and Ervin were married in 1970. Ervin passed away in 1998 and Sybil passed in 2016. The couple truly loved history whether it was about their family heritage, South Dakota or a place they were traveling to.
“They grew up in ‘old times’,” Erickson smiled. They had a lot of antiques and when they traveled they enjoyed researching that location and learning about its history. They were knowledgeable about Pearl Harbor and the Presidents, as well as Kings and Queens. “They believed in life-long learning,” Erickson said. “They liked to see progress but remember the past.”
The Schafer funds will do just that. “They enjoyed life and were so willing and wanting to share,” Erickson said about the couple. “They were just that type of people.”
The Ervin and Sybil Schafer Memorial Scholarship was announced at the 2019 Lake Area Tech scholarship luncheon. The Schafers’ bequest to the Watertown Area Community Foundation will enable $40,000 in scholarships to be awarded annually to Florence and Watertown students entering an ag-related field at Lake Area. Pictures are: Tracy Hlvacacek, LATIFoundation executive director; Betty Erickson, Sybil’s sister, and Jan DeBerg,WACF executive director.