Juanita Gnip can't believe she will turn 100 on Sunday.
A century of life — and still going strong
Juanita Gnip can’t believe she will turn 100 on Sunday. But she is very excited about the milestone event. After her birthday party with family and friends, nothing will change in her life. She will head back to work at St. Luke’s Cushing Hospital. She is determined that the pace of her busy life will not slow down.
She did take a little time off when she owned and operated a beauty shop in town to have five children. Then in 1964, she began working in Cushing Memorial Hospital’s beauty shop. She would visit with patients and try to make them feel comfortable and at ease.
In 1979, she began volunteer work and became the patient coordinator at the hospital. She now works three days a week in volunteer service there. She became a member of the Cushing Auxiliary and joined the hospice program as a volunteer. She also volunteered at Abeles School for Handicapped Children and taught 2- and 3-year-olds at Sunday school for 43 years.
Caregiving came naturally to Juanita. She took care of her parents and grandparents. Her father lived with her and her husband for 10 years and her mother-in-law lived with them for 20 years.
Her volunteer service allows her a wide range of helpful interactions, from greeting and directing visitors at the information desk to talking with patients, their families, hospital staff and doctors. Her decades of experience volunteering have given her a special ability to empathize and interact with patients who are facing surgery and who feel anxious and stressed. She focuses on helping the patients relax and feel comfortable.
“As a volunteer for more than 50 years, Juanita has had a profound influence on our patients, staff and other volunteers,” said Bobby Olm-Shipman, CEO of Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital. “We are enormously grateful for the kindness and compassion she shares with our patients and families. Always helpful and cheerful, Juanita is one of the reasons Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital is a great place to get care. She is well-deserving of this tremendous honor.”
After receiving a Heroes in Healthcare honor recently from Ingram’s Magazine, Juanita told the magazine, “There was always someone in my family who needed care, even now, there are still people who call me, and ask me to go with them through the pre-surgery process. I treat people like family, and since I have been at the hospital so long, and know so many people, they feel comfortable calling on me.”
She said that when a man entered the surgical waiting room many years ago looking frightened, she approached him.
“I started talking with him, and stayed with him until his procedure began,” she said. “He had to come back another day for more surgery, and even though I was not in the waiting room, he asked for me to come and be with him, which I did.”
When she received a package containing a hand-made cross at the hospital a short time later, there was a note inside from the man’s wife.
“She wanted to let me know he had died unexpectedly, but he wanted me to have the cross,” Juanita says. “It is displayed on my front door today.”
Her volunteering efforts earned her a Volunteer of the Year award at Cushing Hospital in 1986 and a 1998 Volunteer of the Year award for hospice work.
She has been honored at St. Luke’s Cushing Hospital several years for her service and the Surgery Family Waiting Room was dedicated in her honor.
But while the honors and accolades are nice, her motivation is purely based on her love for people – and to keep working so that she can be around people. Her daughter, Arlene, says her mom would definitely miss working and plans to work for as long as she can. When she is not working she likes to read.
After living through some life-changing world events such as the Great Depression and watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, Juanita has enjoyed an amazing journey. She has five children, Arlene, Roy, Jeff, Teddie and Gary, seven grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren (with one on the way) and four great-great-grandchildren.
She lives alone, drives to work and only has help with grocery shopping and house cleaning.
She has a bad knee, but she refuses to allow it to slow her down. But she will definitely need to get a little extra sleep in the next few days because she will celebrate the big 1-0-0 with a lot of parties.
Juanita says her happiest memories were when her kids were born. And her kids’ happiest memories include time with their mom.
The kids agree that their mom was always loving and involved – and always there for them while being kind, strong and one of a kind. Her independent lifestyle at 100 years of age is nothing new. The kids say she was always independent and hard working and she still tells them, “I’ll do it myself.”
They most admire that at her age she still volunteers and wants to take care of people and she has a giving, caring heart and that she has always been willing to believe in people.
She has taught them to work hard and to treat others as they would like to be treated.
Juanita’s grandfather lived to be 100 also, but while she doesn’t take her longevity for granted, her rules for living a long, good life include staying active, and most importantly, eating a lot of chocolate.
She eats whatever she wants and gets her exercise walking at the hospital when she is working.
When asked about the secret to a long and happy life, Juanita said, “Take each day as it comes and make the most of it. Be thankful.”