Delphine Scharber was one of the first volunteers for a kidney transplant after University of Minnesota doctors started performing the surgery in 1963. She also would become one of the longest-living kidney transplant patients.
Both her kidneys were failing when she received one from her mother in early 1965, said her husband, Robert Scharber. His wife lived another 45 years, and enjoyed raising their daughter and the fun of watching their two grandsons play football at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, he said. She also served a lot of meals at her church and Catholic Charities in Minneapolis.
The Spring Lake Park woman died of a rare endocrine cancer on Sept. 29 at a St. Paul hospice, said her only child, Julie Scharber. She was 69. Her mother's kidney, which was still functioning, was 99 years old.
Scharber worked 36 years as a fiscal officer in the U's education college, where she met Robert Bruininks, former college dean and now university president.
"She was a tremendous asset to the college and the university, a dedicated professional, and a wonderful colleague," Bruininks said by e-mail. "She will be sorely missed by all who knew her."
Scharber was the 25th person to receive a kidney in the university hospital's program. Almost 7,600 kidneys have been transplanted since 1963 and the recipient longevity record is 46 years, said Jennifer Amundson, spokeswoman for Fairview Health Services.
Scharber was a pioneer who took a chance on a new procedure, Amundson said. Kidney recipients are usually tracked for up to five years, and after three years, about 94 percent are still alive.
About 300 people, including 70 varsity football players from St. Thomas Academy, attended Scharber's funeral last week at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Blaine.
Her oldest grandson, Anthony, is a senior and team co-captain; his brother, Isaac, is a junior. "She never missed a football game" and knew many of the players, said Julie Marks, assistant to the athletic director at the boys' military prep school. She said it is rare for the cadets, who wore their dress blue jackets and white gloves, to attend a funeral.
"She is just a great lady. The boys wanted to go and pay their respects to her and Anthony and Isaac," Marx said.
Scharber was married at age 23, a few months before her transplant on Jan. 26, 1965.
"Del was a real religious person," her husband said. "She said beforehand, 'I know God is going to allow it. I know it will work.' She said, 'I am not going to die, and I will have a long life with you, too.'"
Her mother, Ottilia Winter, who was 52 at the time of the surgery, lived with one kidney until 2003, when she died at 90, Julie Scharber said.
Scharber was a hard-working volunteer and Women's Council member at St. Tim's, said Diane Wiener, church cook and hospitality coordinator. "Any time I called and asked her, she always was more than willing," Wiener said. "She was always happy, always smiling. She once told me, 'Every day I have is a gift. I could have not been here.'"
Scharber is also survived by three sisters, Carol Freid, of Maple Grove, Bernie Winter and Mary Anne Drevecky, both of Rush City, Minn.