In the kitchen with Gerry Scheil

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Gerry’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cake
1 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. mace
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Cream margarine until light
Add sugar gradually
Add well beaten eggs
Mix and sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk
Add vanilla
Chop 1/2 bag of chocolate chips and stir into mixture, then add rest of chips
Bake in two greased and floured 8 inch square pans for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees.


When retirement years are nearing, folks often think about how they’ll fill their new-found free time. Some dream about cruises, some hope to get in more fishing or gardening. Not so for Gerry Scheil and his wife of 31 years, Janet. They became volunteer firefighters.

Scheil, 62, said that he and Janet started out as fire police in 2013.

“We helped direct traffic, secured the scene after a fire and protected equipment and personnel,” Scheil said.

When they were asked if they wanted to remain on the fringes or get where the real action is they both answered in the affirmative.

“We re-invented ourselves. I’m most proud of my wife. She started at 59 years old.”

Rather than the usual scenario of kids looking to their parents as role models, this family did the opposite.

Their daughter Katy Weber, 25, is a captain at West Milford’s Greenwood Forest Volunteer Fire Company #3 and their son-in law, Keith Weber, is a lieutenant. All four of them are now attached to Company #3.

“It turned into a family affair. It was my son, Christopher, who started this. He was a marine fire fighter and he’s now a fire training officer. He inspired Katy. And she met my son-in-law at fire school,” Scheil said.

Janet and Gerry Scheil completed their fire school training in April and are now certified fire fighters in New Jersey.

Scheil, who has been a resident of West Milford for 31 years, was raised in Jersey City. He attended Xavier High School in Manhattan, then St. Peter’s College, earning a bachelor of science degree in accounting. He has been a pricing manager for the last 34 years, currently employed by Honeywell.

The Scheils have also found another way to keep it all in the family. Gerry, Janet, Katy and Keith are all members of the bagpipe band Clan Na Vale.

When Katy was a youngster, she was taken by the music of the pipes. Although she was most likely too young to know much about the instrument, she would sit at military tattoos and promise her parents she’d someday be out on the floor playing, too.

Bagpipes are thought to be of Middle Eastern origins and have long been associated with the military. Sometimes called “warpipes,” they were used as a form of communication and a method of unsettling enemy troops. Their high pitched and high decibel notes can be heard for miles around.

A player must blow air into the pipe constantly while squeezing the bag placed under the arm and cover and uncover holes to create the notes. A difficult instrument to play, but by age 12 Katy was taking lessons.

Her parents alternated taking her for her lessons and one by one the instructor talked mom and dad into becoming drummers; Gerry on the bass drum, Janet on the tenor drum. They traveled to Vermont for schooling and learned a lot on the job.

Katy went on to play with the West Milford High School bagpipe band, starting in her freshman year. In 2012, the family joined Clan Na Vale which has been in existence since 1973.

While there’s no Scottish blood in the Scheil family, there’s a wee bit of Irish. Clan Na Vale, an Irish band, has performed in parades in New York and New Jersey. They also play at weddings, funerals and for special occasions.

When a bagpiper dresses to perform, his full regalia can be worth upward of $1,500. Add to that the price of the bagpipes, $500 to $5,000, and you’ve got a pricey past time.

Gerry Scheil has given up the drums and is now a drum major.

“I lead the parade. As long as there’s a yellow line I’m in good shape.” He carries the mace which is used to signal starts and stops. “It’s so loud you need visual cues,” he said.

He enjoys the camaraderie of the band and values his family’s involvement.

“We are doing things together, which I think is sorely lacking in today’s society,” Scheil said.

As a newlywed, Scheil could never have imagined he and his bride in a bagpipe band. Who knows where the road may lead us.

When not high stepping in a kilt, Scheil enjoys re-charging his batteries by birding on Bearfort Mountain.

When it comes to cooking, he’s more a helpmate than a chef. Two fire fighters in the kitchen, though, should dramatically cut down on serious mishaps. He has sent in a time-tested family recipe.

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