Hospital retirees invited to annual covered dish luncheon Friday
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you ask most retirees, it’s not the job they end up missing the most but the people they worked alongside, some for decades.
That’s the case for Gerrae Messer and her fellow Blount Memorial Hospital retirees Peggy Cooper, JoAnn Pierce, Shirley Ogle and Carolyn Crisp. They have maintained their friendships after leaving the workforce, but they are sure there are some fellow BMH retirees who have lost contact and might want to reconnect.
If you’re out there, mark Friday on your calendar. That’s when the annual BMH retirees luncheon will be held, beginning at 11 a.m. at the First Church of the Nazarene in Maryville. Hospital retirees have been getting together on the second Friday of October for over a decade and organizers would love to see a huge turnout this time.
United in service
Between these five women, they have served this community for decades at Blount Memorial. Crisp put in 35 years, beginning in 1959 and retired in June of 1995. She was 12 years old when the hospital opened, she said.
Messer, who worked as a registered nurse, started at BMH when she was just 18 and stayed for the next 47 years. She was able to retire in 2010.
Cooper logged 25 years of service at the hospital, starting there in 1960. She, like many of the others, was a nurses’ aide at first, but was able to take the licensed practical nursing program the hospital began offering.
“There were 22 of us in that first class,” Cooper said. “The program went for seven and a half months instead of the normal 13 months. All of us passed.”
Messer was part of that first LPN class. She said the classes were all taught by specialists, like physicians, the Red Cross, nutritionists, etc. “We made the highest score and held the highest score on the state board for years. People laughed at us in Nashville because we only had seven and a half months in the program.”
But what those doubters didn’t know was that these women had been taking what the hospital called a technicians class for a year. That class, said Messer, was what was being taught in everybody else’s LPN program.
When Pierce came to BMH, she had just graduated from the registered nurse program at Baptist Hospital. That was in 1962. Apparently she fit right in here.
“This is the only place I ever worked,” she said. She retired in 2000. That’s 38 years at the same place.
Over in medical records, Ogle put in many a long day. She came to BMH in 1973 and retired in 2005, making her stint at the hospital 32 years.
Today, BMH is the second largest employer in Blount County, behind DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee. Messer said in her early days, people came to work at the hospital and stayed, just like they did at ALCOA Inc. or at most other good jobs.
“Back then, people didn’t leave,” she said. “They worked their lifetime right here.”
Things have changed and turnover is higher than it used to be. That can probably be said for just about any place of business. But on Friday, retirees from the hospital can come back together, share a story or two, catch up on grandchildren and remember when.
Stories to tell
Crisp has plenty of memories to share. She came aboard as a nurses’ aide when she was 19 years old and continued in that position into retirement. She was only 19 when she came to work at BMH.
“I graduated from high school in 1958,” Crisp recalled. “There was no money and no transportation. I just laid my ears back and went at it and didn’t stop.”
Some of these hospital workers, like Crisp and Messer, rode busses into town from Walland and Friendsville. Messer said she didn’t drive until she was 21.
Looking back, these women have memories they cherish and people they hope to see on Friday. “The hospital has been good to us all,” Messer said.
Crisp, Pierce and the others call these former coworkers family. They did, after all, spend a huge portion of their lives side by side. Each looks forward to the Friday luncheon.
“I hope so many show up that we have to find another spot next year,” Messer said.