Blanche Spratley, affectionately known as “Sprat”, was the beloved cook at Deaconess Hall for 13 ½ years, from the time it opened in 1958 through 1971 or so. She was born in Chicago but also lived in West Virginia and California before moving to Valparaiso. She had a son, who died before her, and a daughter, as well as eight grandchildren. Her husband also preceded her in death. She died in 1995 at the age of 89 and Louise Williams officiated at her funeral.
Sprat was a no-nonsense kind of woman who smoked heavily – but she loved “her girls” dearly and fed them well. Favorites were cherries jubilee, Dimp Special (named for Elaine Albers), Italian delight, burgers n blankets, and kuchen. She also packed lunches for students who had classes on the old campus and couldn’t get back in time for lunch. Though she was a good cook, at least one Deaconess remembers a time when the meal didn’t go so well. Sprat had received some beef from her nephew, which she happily served. However, it was tough and difficult to chew. At the end of the meal, one of the students began singing, “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Won”, and the others merrily joined in. Fortunately, the meaning of the song went over Sprat’s head and she didn’t get the joke! The class of 64-65 put together a recipe book of Sprat’s recipes. Deaconess Hall gained a reputation of having the best food on campus during those years, and Sunday lunch after Chapel services found many guests (mostly hungry boyfriends!)
Sprat had student helpers to help feed all of us hungry students. One student was responsible for helping with menu planning and shopping for groceries. Another student would peel the cut the vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.) necessary for a meal. In exchange, this student did not have to pay for meals for the semester. Her job was lightened considerably as study weary students would find their way to the kitchen and ask if they could help peel because they needed a study break.
Those of us who lived in Deaconess Hall and experienced Sprat’s presence and her cooking have warm memories of her motherly care and tasty food. We were the envy of campus – and so blessed to have her!
(thank you to Deaconess Phyllis Pleuss for writing this article)