When it comes to talking about herself, Judy Hargis, certified nursing assistant at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, doesn’t like it. She also isn’t sure that working in the same place for 50 years needs to be discussed either. “I just came here one day, and here I am,” she said with a shrug.
Her decades-long career path was forged by a simple phone call from the director of Nursing back in 1967, inviting Judy to work at the Newport hospital. “I came to work the next day,” she said. Along the way, countless patients and numerous coworkers helped her choose her life’s commitment to the work of patient care. “I’m here because of the people. It’s always been about the people,” she said.
When Judy started working at Pacific Communities at the age of 20, she joined a barebones staff. “There was one nurse for the ER and for Labor and Delivery,” she said. “The ambulance would just show up at the back door and we’d all help.”
Touring the building with her recently, she ticks off where everything used to be. “This was the ER,” she said waving toward a wall, “and here was the lab with two Bunsen burners.” At the door to the current Cardiopulmonary Department, she grinned and said, “And this is where Henry Fonda died in ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’.”
While part of the 1970 movie was, indeed, filmed in Newport, including Fonda’s death scene, and both Fonda and Paul Newman used the hospital as their studio for a time, Judy never met them. “We weren’t encouraged to hang around,” she said.
Her department was across the hall. “This was home,” she said. “This was Med-Surg.”
Standing with her in the hallway outside the current Outpatient Treatment Center, you can almost see the memories pass across her mind. “Patients were here much longer than they are today. Six weeks for a broken hip, and for some things, even longer,” she said. “They just moved in.”
“Everything I look at has memories,” she added.
Judy has always lived in Newport, from the moment she was born at a hospital in Nye Beach. She started work at age 13 at the Lookout Observatory gift shop on Otter Crest Loop. With a strong work ethic even then, Judy worked all types of jobs as a teenager; she babysat, took tickets at the fairgrounds and washed pots and pans at the school. When it was offered, she never even considered turning down the hospital job, and she never thought about leaving it for something else. “I come from the generation that went to work and stayed,” she said.
In recent years, she has noticed a widening generational gap between her and her coworkers. “My mindset and my priorities are different,” she said. She still enjoys the people and the work. And if her body would allow, she might work until her last breath.
“It’s too much for me physically now,” she said. “I have to take more ibuprofen when I get up in the morning.” She had breast cancer four years ago, and a respiratory infection this past winter that took a lot out of her. “I’m slower now, I know that. I’m past my prime. And also, as that old saying goes, I don’t want to smell like the fish, or the company, that stays too long,” she said.
While Judy does not have a bucket list of things she wants to do in retirement, she does look forward to regular get-togethers with other retirees she worked with through the years. Now, instead of missing their monthly meals because of work, Judy can join them.
“All those former nurses are my family. Well, I have a husband and daughter too. They’re all family,” she said. “We’ve been through a lot together.”
“I know it will take me some time to figure out what I want to do in retirement, but I’ll find something,” she said.
On Friday, Sept. 15, Judy will clock out for the final time, 50 years from the day of that fateful phone call in 1967. We at SPCH are so glad she answered the call.