SP woman in workforce for 70 years

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

SOUTH POINT — Bernice Melvin is a lot like some of the other employees at Quality Care Nursing Services; she works 40 hours a week, she is punctual and she rarely misses a day of work.

The only difference is that she has been in the workforce for more than 70 years and trains the home health aides at Quality, most of which are at least half her age.

“I’ve got the energy and I feel good,” 81-year-old Melvin said as she sat at her neatly kept desk. “I feel like I’m needed and I have a lot of love to give more people.”

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She has worked at Quality for more than five years, but Melvin has had her share of jobs over the years. She worked as a telephone operator most of her life, but also worked at Henrites and the Greyhound bus station in downtown Ironton. She never found what she calls her “true calling” until retiring in 1990 and then taking care of a friend and her friend’s husband, both of whom had cancer.

“When I retired, I intended to be a tourist guide, but I guess things work out for the best,” she said with a laugh.

Melvin said she has a special place in her heart for those with cancer, which is why she feels home health care is so vital to the community. She herself was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 40, six years later, she had one of her breasts removed due to cancer and eight years after that, cancer struck again and she had her other breast removed. She endured 52 weeks of chemotherapy.

Her survival of what many call a terminal illness has led her to try to inspire others to fight for their own survival. She said, “everybody needs hope” during their darkest days.

Before training aides, Melvin worked with the patients one-on-one. She still regularly visits local nursing homes.

“I loved working out in the field and helping people,” Melvin said. “When I go to see them I love to lift them up. But, really, it’s me who gets lifted up the most.”

Many of her friends and classmates are in nursing homes or receive services through Quality Care. She Bersaid this is very difficult for her because she feels guilty for what God has blessed her with. Her cancer has been gone for more than 40 years and she said she has no major health problems and takes no medicine.

“You just have to count your blessings,” Melvin said with a smile. “I can’t think of all the sorrow that I’ve had when I look at all the joy.”

She said the Lord has also given her a little bit of luck in life, as well. Shortly after the 1980 death of her husband — Charles Melvin, owner of Melvin’s Auto Parts in Deering — she won $100,000 from a lottery ticket her friend had bought for her. The money helped to pay for her husband’s mountain of medical bills and funeral expenses — he had no medical insurance at the time of his death. There was little left over after the bills were paid, she said.

Melvin said she feels lucky every day of the year for what she has. Each morning she gets up at 5 a.m. to look at the sunrise and, she said, on her way home from work each day she watches the sun set.

Her co-workers describe Melvin as kind and loving and “the grandmother everybody would like to have.”

“She is the most loyal employee that we’ve ever had,” said Joe Freeman, owner of Quality Care. “She is always here on time and I never have to supervise her. We can always count on her.”