Verla Jane Voepel first moved to Page on the first of December 1972. Her husband, Harold, a mechanical engineer by trade, had a new job to be the assistant superintendent of the Navajo Generating Station as it was being built. She loves living in Page and says all of her needs are met here.
She doesn’t mind the isolation at all. Some people in Page may know her from her work with Arizona Beta Mu Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi sorority, a community service organization.
Verla got her name from her sister. Her sister was 13 at the time and had a good friend in school named Verla. When her parents were trying to figure out a name, her sister said she wanted it to be Verla. So, Verla it was! She was born to term, at just under 2 pounds. At first, she was fed with an eyedropper and then a teaspoon, consuming 27 teaspoons of water and condensed milk per day.
Verla and her husband were blessed with two daughters and one son. Their daughter Cyndi is retired in Chino Valley, Arizona. Her son, Hal, has a doctorate in hydrology. Her second daughter, Lori, is an appeals attorney in Phoenix.
When Lori was 21 years old, she worked at the AM station in Page and became the youngest manager of a radio station in the country. Lori later became the general manager when the Page radio station expanded to include an FM station. Verla has one granddaughter and two step-grandchildren.
Harold retired from NGS in 1990. They traveled together and often wintered in Tucson until he passed away in 2011. When he retired, he was honored to receive a Navajo rug that still hangs in her house today.
When Verla was growing up, she had a dream of working for the FBI as an investigator. Back when she was a young woman, the only jobs with the FBI that opened to women were for secretaries and for administrative. There were no women investigators back then. Growing up, she was discouraged from obtaining a college degree even though there was a college near where she grew up.
When she was a sophomore in high school, she wrote an article at school about her desire to be an investigator for the FBI. Her parents and family didn’t know and when her article was published in the local newspaper, it was a surprise.
Years later, Verla met a Girl Scout leader, Stephanie, who worked for the FBI, at a Scout meeting. As they talked, she found out about Verla’s dream to be an FBI investigator and was interested in helping. Stephanie sent a copy of the newspaper article to FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
After the review in Washington and in Phoenix, she and her daughter, Lori, were invited to FBI’s Phoenix Division on Jan. 9, 2019. While touring the Phoenix facility she was presented with an award for “Exceptional Service in the Public Interest” by the special agent in charge.
The in-depth tour was a dream come true for Verla. She was especially impressed with the vault where hundreds of firearms are stored for the agents. Some time after the tour, an intern at the FBI contacted Verla and wrote a story about their tour for the internal divisional newsletter.
During the tour, Verla met a special agent and his K-9, a Goldendoodle. The FBI calls their K-9s, “Hero Dogs.” They demonstrated how a K-9’s bullet proof vest works to protect a police dog. Both the K-9 and their handlers have bullet proof vests that have a plate that cannot be penetrated by bullets. This K-9 team helps the FBI with cases involving crimes against women and children.
As a community service project, Verla and her sorority sisters helped raise funds for a K-9 bullet proof vest and donated it to the Page Police Department’s Hero Dog, “Hasy,” that is handled by Officer Crystal Thinn.
Always fascinated with crime shows, her favorites are “Bones” and “NCIS.”
When she toured the FBI, she asked if Bones was realistic or just a Hollywood fabrication. She was told that it was indeed realistic. She says she often solves the mystery in the shows before the end of the show.
In her early years, Verla was a teacher’s aide in the Page Unified School District until 1977. One day she decorated a cake for a friend and as word got out, her phone started ringing with orders for cakes. For years, she made and decorated cakes until arthritis made it no longer possible. She loves to sew and used to make her own cards by hand. Nowadays, she still makes cards on her computer which she also uses for email.
From time to time she invites her sorority sisters over for high tea. In fact, she has quite a collection of teapots in all sorts of colors and shapes.
Once Verla had the opportunity to travel to Victoria, British Columbia, and had high tea at the Empress Hotel. She said it was quite the grand experience. This year the theme for the sorority is “Power of the Dream,” and for Verla, her dream came true 69 years later.
Verla cherishes the company of her friends and family and loves to travel, especially go on cruises. Her physician calls her a “world traveler.” She’s enjoyed many places on the planet, such as Disney cruises with her family and granddaughter. While she loves to travel just about anywhere, her favorite place to visit is Scotland, in part because she is of Scottish ancestry.
Verla will soon be celebrating her 86th birthday.
As she stood in front of her teapot collection for a photo, she told me that she is glad to be in Page with its beautiful scenery and that her family and friends mean the world to her.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series for the Lake Powell Chronicle. To suggest a Face of Page, reporter Phil Clark can be reached at [email protected]