Hospital volunteer marks 97th birthday, life of service

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Walla Walla General Hospital volunteer extrodinaire Wilmer Bryan mans the cash register in the General's Gift Shop nowdays. He says "volunteering is in his blood". Until recently he was an escort for folks departing the hospital.

Long-term Walla Walla General Hospital volunteer Wilmer Bryan just celebrated his 97th birthday on Valentine's Day.

At the hospital that day, he got a card signed with plenty of good wishes from his co-workers. Bryan enjoys his volunteer efforts, he's hard-working and well-liked.

Bryan likes to stay busy and enjoys seeing and helping people in the hospital gift shop.

He's volunteered at Walla Walla General Hospital for 16 years, starting in February 1995. Through the years he's done a variety of jobs, currently in the gift shop, where he greets people and calmly assists them with their needs. He's a cheerful and calming influence on those who come into the hospital concerned about loved ones and in distress.

He and his wife, Gladys, came here from southern California in 1980 to be with family. He and Gladys were high school sweethearts. They have two children, a son and a daughter, five grandkids and numerous great-grandchildren. Their daughter worked as a nurse at the hospital. Both their son and daughter encouraged them to get involved as volunteers, so it was natural for the couple to volunteer at the hospital. They did, and have devoted plenty of time to helping where help was needed.

Gladys passed away some time ago. "She's been gone now eight years," Bryan said. He carries on their tradition at WWGH. "It's something to do," he said. Bryan likes helping others. He's not the type of person to just sit back and do nothing.

"You just get up, have breakfast and go to work," he said. "Live from day to day. That's a good way to meet life is to take it day by day." This one-day-at-a-time philosophy has guided him through his 97 years.

Over his lifetime, he's done many different types of work. Born in Adrian, Michigan, he grew up on a farm and learned that type of labor first. Later, he worked for a beekeeper making wooden bee supplies which they trucked to various locations. He also had direct contact with the bees, harvesting honey.

In southern California he managed a book bindery. A solid work ethic has propelled him through his life and brought him considerable success and accomplishments.

"He's an inspiration to all of us," said Gloria Ensminger, Director of Volunteer Services at Walla Walla General Hospital. "He's so sweet and dependable, loyal. They sure don't make them like they used to. He's so determined."

According to Ensminger, Bryan helps wherever and whenever he's needed, always cheerful and helpful.

"He's such a gentleman. He's a genuine gentleman. We're losing all the manners that we used to have. He's a friendly, lovable volunteer. He's consistent and dependable, if I need him he can be here in a few minutes." Bryan encourages others to volunteer if they have the time and energy to do it.

"It's something good to do," he said. "It's all about living a good life. Live a good clean life, no smoking, no drinking. That's the way to do it. Any other way will get you into trouble."

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