Girl Scouts are known for leaving places better than they found them. And former troop leader Virginia Cubalchini, 86, of Park Forest, IL left the world a better place than she found it through her nearly 40 years of service as a volunteer.
After learning about Mrs. Cubalchini’s death in August 2015, two of her Girl Scouts, sisters Lois Shadrick and LaDonna Carr, made a donation to American Forests to plant 50 trees in honor of her love for camping and the great outdoors.
“We would go to Camp Butternut Springs every year and clean the trails and the vines off the trees,” said Shadrick of Downers Grove. “We’d name trees as we planted them and as I was looking for something timeless to honor Mrs. Cubalchini, I thought about those trees.”
Her sister, who described Mrs. Cubalchini as the “epitome of a Girl Scout leader,” agreed.
“She taught us to enjoy your surroundings and take in the beauty of nature. Don’t take it for granted. Stop and look around and appreciate it,” Carr said.
Mrs. Cubalchini’s daughter, Virginia Williamson, who lives in Frankfort, was touched by the gesture.
“My mom was all about the environment and spending time outdoors before it was fashionable,” she remembered. “She was just a caring person, extremely sensitive and very friendly. She always wanted to be of service. She saw how Girl Scouts could shape girls’ lives and give them a support system.”
One of Mrs. Cubalchini’s Girl Scouts, Nancy Aguirre, even stepped up to be her caregiver while she was recovering from a medical emergency. The two spent several days a week together reliving fond Girl Scout memories and singing camp songs.
“It was an honor to give back to her and do something nice for her after she’d done so much for us,” said Aguirre, who lives in Park Forest. “This was one of those connections you never forget and you look back on as a very special lifelong friendship.”
Carr, who lives in Aurora, credited Girl Scouts will helping her self-esteem.
“I didn’t talk a lot when I was younger, my sister did all the talking for me,” she said. “But I came into my own after I became a Brownie. Girls Scouts helped me come out of my shell and I blossomed.”
But perhaps the most important lesson Mrs. Cubalcihini taught her daughter as both a mom and a troop leader was to “be passionate.”
“She was a single parent who raised two daughters and had three jobs at the same time, yet she still found time to be there for her Girl Scouts and give,” said Williamson. “She just enjoyed it so much and gave of herself. You get so much back when you give and her life was a true testament to that.”