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In the last 47 years, Joyce Weathersby has seen more than most as a nurse at Marion Sims Hospital, Grace White Nursing Home, Springs Memorial Hospital and White Oak Manor.
Given that, it’s hard to get anything over on, or past her.
Weathersby hesitantly agreed to a “going-away” party several weeks ago when she announced her retirement.
That eliminated any chance of friends, family, co-workers and well-wishers surprising her at White Oak Manor on Wednesday afternoon.
Well, maybe not.
When her Facebook friend, WCNC meteorologist Larry Sprinkle walked into the dining room carrying a bouquet of roses, Weathersby grabbed a seat, along with her breath.
“I didn’t know anything about this part,” Weathersby said. “Having him show up has to be one of the biggest shocks in my life.”
Lucky for Weathersby, Sprinkle did his nurse’s impersonation and started fanning her with an envelope containing an autographed photo.
“You weren't going to run, were you?” Sprinkle asked as he fanned away. “You’re too young to retire.”
Moments later, a grinning Weathersby embraced Dr. Pierce “Stumpy” Horton Jr.
“I might need a doctor,” she said, laughing as she hugged Horton “Do you know somebody?”
Theirs is a relationship that has spanned almost 50 years, Horton said, noting that Weathersby was a second generation nurse who followed the footsteps of her mother, Margaret Anderson.
“I knew her in training, ever how long ago that’s been,” Horton said. “They are a nice group of sisters and have always made a good impression.”
Sprinkle told Weathersby that his retirement surprise had been in the works for some time. He said Todd Wallace, who oversees human relations at White Manor, called him about a year ago.
Sprinkle said Wallace had originally set the date for Weathersby's retirement party as Tuesday, April 5. However, thanks to Sprinkle’s prowess at long-range weather forecasting, he convinced Wallace to wait.
“I told him, ‘No, Tuesday is going to be a bad day, hold off until April 6,’” Sprinkle said.
“You can tell by the number of people who turned out how special she is,” said Donna Sowell. “When I met my husband, Billy Frank, one of the first things he wanted me to do was meet one of his best friends and it was Joyce. We’ve been married for 30 years now, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Weathersby will be missed
Wallace said Weathersby will be missed by the tight-knit White Oak family, which includes staff, residents and their families and volunteers. Wallace said nurses with her skill set, experience and caring nature are hard to find. Wallace said they are even harder to keep.
“Someone like Joyce is not going to be replaced. She is just one of a kind and is a part of this place,” Wallace said.
“Joyce is really a good person,” said White Oak’s Patty Stevens, who worked with Weathersby for 16 years. “All of us are going to miss her.”
Tish Leonhardt said it’s not just employees who are missing Weathersby; so are the residents.
That’s something that Phyllis Elliott – whose mother, Mae Carter, is a White Oak resident –fully understands. Elliott said words can’t express what it meant to have Weathersby around.
“I don’t think that’s something you can really appreciate until you have somebody in your family who has to be taken care of,” Elliott said. “She was always faithful and always called when something came up.”
That’s a pretty good compliment for someone who never wanted to be a nurse. Weathersby said her mom’s constant needling led to her career choice.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to do it,” Weathersby said. “But she kept on, and on and on about it. I really didn’t have a choice.”
When it comes to being a nurse, Weathersby said love and compassion are the keys.
“You have to have lots of patience and be willing to listen to your patients,” she said, laughing.
For now, Weathersby plans to do a little traveling.
“I gotta’ admit that I'm getting bored already,” she said. “It’s kind of lonesome at times.”
Someone placed a White Oak employment application on a table filled with gifts should Weathersby decide to come back to work.
“You never know,” she said, laughing. “I don’t really know what I’m going to do yet.”