Herbert and Janet Scharnbeck

Herbert Scharnbeck was born in Braunsbach, Germany. His father was a doctor there. However, after the worst flood in generations, their second-floor home was flooded and the family moved to Metzing, Germany, where he grew up. He attended medical school in Germany and in Vienna, Austria, graduating in 1956.

Janet was born in New Jersey and lived much of her life to that point in Atlantic City. Janet was born with a desire to help others; she loves to take care of people. Even as a child, she wanted to help anyone who was hurting. She went to nursing school in Philadelphia, at Pennsylvania Hospital, the earliest established public hospital in the United States, founded in May 1751, by Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond. She then went back to New Jersey and worked as a nurse there.

So, how did these two meet? Well, Germany has socialized medicine, and Herbert wanted to learn how America did medicine, so he went to Patterson, NJ, for an internship before going to Somers Point Hospital, Somers Point, NJ. Janet was there as the head nurse of surgery at that time. One morning, around the 1957 time-frame, she was told that there was a patient, Dr. Scharnbeck, in a room on her floor. She rebelled. “I don’t want him on my floor!” She didn’t like doctors and never intended to marry one. However, she was told, you got him, you will have to put up with him. For some unknown reason (even to Janet!) three days later, she borrowed her sister’s car and, at 9:45 at night, went to the hospital, avoided the main entrance, went down in the cellar and up through the morgue, which led her to the door to her floor. It was dark, so she took a flashlight and went to his room. He called out, “Who’s there?” She told him, and he said to come in. She said she used the excuse to herself that he was alone, no family, no radio, nothing to read. Three days later, he got out of the hospital by persuading the chief surgeon to discharge him early, and he asked her to go to New York with him. She was flabbergasted but said ok. And that is how they met.

Herbert went back to Germany and they wrote back and forth. In 1961, Janet moved to Germany and lived with missionary friends of Herbert’s. They were married the next year. They lived and worked there until he retired. It was hard; he had to make house calls at all hours. They did not have much time for themselves. When they did, they might go duck pin bowling to enjoy themselves.

Janet recalled that one day they went to the Octoberfest in Munich, and Herbert told her to have a beer. After all, it WAS Octoberfest, and beer was served by the quart. She told him there was no way she would ever drink a quart of beer! Well, someone brought her some bagels and a quart mug of beer. She sat down at a long bench and began visiting with friends and neighbors, talking and enjoying the Octoberfest. The next thing she knew, she had an empty stein sitting in front of her.

Another story: One time, Dr. Scharnbeck had to go to the hospital at 2:00 am as a patient with kidney stones. The young intern looking after him told him he needed to do an EKG. Dr. Scharnbeck said, “No, I don’t need an EKG. My heart is just fine. That is not why I am here.” But the young man insisted he had to do an EKG. So he had the EKG done. After a while, the young man came back, carrying the EKG print out and said, “Dr. Scharnbeck, can you read this? I don’t know how.”

Just one more: One day an old farmer entered the waiting room and said, “OOOOOHHH! Mrs. Scharnbeck, I have a bad pain!” She asked him what the matter was. He repeated, “OOOOOHHH! Mrs. Scharnbeck, I have a bad pain!” She asked him where the pain was. He turned around and dropped his pants. She was a little surprised at what she saw. “Mr. Steele, why do you have Band-Aids all over your bottom?!” He told her, well, the first time he had a pain, he put a Band-Aid over the spot so he would remember it. And, so, each time he had a pain, he would put a Band-Aid on it. She wondered just how long it had been since this farmer had had a bath, there were so many Band-Aids!

While in Germany, they had three children – two sons and a daughter. Their oldest son, Hans, stayed in Germany, but the other two came to the US. Their second son, Chris, went to school in Virginia, met a girl, and stayed. They now live in Charlottesville, VA. He and his wife adopted a baby girl from China. America had too many rules and regulations for them and, at that time, they were killing baby girls in China.

Their daughter, Bettina, went to Messiah College, a private Christian college in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Now, she works for an attorney in Florida, but her real love is the piano, which she teaches at night.

Herbert noted that, for the 5-6 years he was in New Jersey, he felt Germany was his home. Then, when he returned to Germany, it was not where he grew up. Now his home is Sunnyside. There is not much family in Germany anymore, although his oldest son, who is an anesthesiologist, lives there. He said if he were all alone here, he would stay; he would not go back to Germany. After retiring, he and Janet lived six months in Germany and six months in New Jersey. Herbert began practicing in New Jersey, first in internal medicine, then he narrowed it down to addiction medicine. In 2014, he was honored to receive the Patient Satisfaction Award for the state, a very big honor. He explained he was in the top 3 percent of all doctors who were rated by their patients.

Herbert and Janet became interested in moving to the Shenandoah Valley while traveling back and forth to Charlottesville to visit their son. The deciding factor was when their son told them, “You have to move here; you cannot be far away if anything happens.” Thank you, Chris, for your role in bringing your parents to Sunnyside!

Herbert loves the mountains; the landscape here reminds him of southwest Germany, where he grew up. He is looking forward to (once they finally get settled!) hiking in the area. He also enjoys history and traveling to foreign countries.

Janet says she is a reader or will be again when things settle down. She has always been very active in her church and plans to continue that tradition.

The Scharnbeck’s visited 20 CCRCs over time. They chose Virginia for the mountains and to be close to Chris and his family. They actually started to move here 5 years ago. However, medical circumstances caused a change of mind; it was a difficult time. Returning home from Charlottesville late last year, Herbert decided he wanted to look at Sunnyside one last time. Janet was not enthusiastic. However, when they came here, it was not as she remembered it. Then, she thought it was drab and that the Highlands was dark and dingy. She feels now that this was a reflection of her state of health at the time. This time, she found Sunnyside very different; everyone was very friendly, and everyone says it was the right decision for them to come to Sunnyside. For the Scharnbeck’s, it turned out to be the right decision too.

Herbert and Janet, welcome to Sunnyside! We look forward to seeing you around the campus. --Kat Marlowe