LaVerne Stevenson waved her arm, gesturing as she walked past the memories.
She pointed to a mural stretched across the wall in the hallway, heading toward the cafeteria in Medical Center Hospital.
Represented at one end was its opening, as the three-story Ector County Hospital in 1949. Photos, portraits, logos and newspaper scans packed the next 20 feet or so, from floor to ceiling, spelling out a timeline of the hospital’s history.
It captures moments like the west tower’s groundbreaking in 1964, the start of a neonatal ICU in 1985, all the way down to the opening of the Center for Women and Infants building in 2012.
During just about every step in its history, Stevenson wasn’t too far off, just as she paced by that mural Monday — until she got to where the hallway meets a junction, and the timeline ends in the 2010’s.
“We’re going to run out of wall,” she said.
But where the mural stops, MCH carries on further.
And the 95-year-old Stevenson keeps marching right with it.
Stevenson celebrated her 95th birthday in February, during her 33rd year of volunteering with the MCH Auxiliary group — all after retirement from a long career in nursing in Odessa.
Her history with MCH spans all the way back to those beginnings in the 1940’s, when she spent a short part of her nursing career working in the Ector County Hospital in its earliest days.
After she retired, and since starting in August 1985, Stevenson has volunteered at MCH in each year, and has given more than 7,900 hours.
“What would I do?” she asked wryly Monday, dropping in familiar sarcasm and flippant jokes during a chat with a visiting reporter and MCH volunteer coordinator Jennifer Jones.
Stevenson recounted her childhood in Phillips, Texas, now a ghost town in the Panhandle that was named for the area’s dominant employer, Phillips Petroleum. She went over her times studying to be a nurse in California and New Orleans, which first scratched her lifelong itch for travel. She talked about her career, which started at the old Headlee Hospital and the old Wood Hospital and the early MCH, before she went to spend most of her career working with Dr. O.A. Fulcher in Odessa.
Since retiring, she’s done volunteer work for decades with MCH, and been involved with Meals on Wheels since its inception, while continuing to stay active since the 40’s with First Presbyterian Church.
In February, the church and the Auxiliary group at MCH both threw parties for Stevenson’s 95th birthday.
“I said, ‘How are y’all going to top that at my 100th?’” she quipped confidently.
That’s the same kind of wit that’s brightened days for visitors and volunteers alike at MCH for as long as Stevenson has been volunteering, Jones said.
“She’s spry and she’s funny. She’s got a lot of life experiences that she can share with people here,” Jones said.
Monday, Stevenson had just stepped away from her desk in a second-floor ICU waiting room, where she was working as liaison between the families and what’s happening back in surgery.
Her task there, and the task taken up by volunteers young and old at MCH, is critical to hospital operations, Jones said.
“People get lost here. People need directions,” she said. “People come in here, sometimes at the very worst things that are happening at their life, and the volunteers, a lot of times, they are the very first person they see.”
Year after year — and now decade after decade — Stevenson has been a rock.
“You can count on her,” Jones said of Stevenson.
And while Stevenson has given plenty, she points out that her time in volunteering has given plenty back to her.
“I feel like I’m helping people,” she said. “I enjoy it. I enjoy being with people, and helping them.”
MCH is always looking for more volunteers, Jones said, and those interested can learn more about the on-board program at mchodessa.com.
“I guess I’ll just keep going because I’m in good health,” Stevenson continued. “I don’t have much of anything wrong with me.”
Stevenson worked with Fulcher for years off and on, around the birth of her children, with her husband, Bill Stevenson, who died in 2011. Now she said she’s watching the growth of three great grandchildren — and two great great grandchildren.
It was Bill who brought LaVerne back to oil country after her schooling in New Orleans, to a bit of her admitted dismay.
“Well, it looked like where I’d lived up in (the Panhandle) — The same ol’ flat,” she laughed.
“I had been in New Orleans, and Miami, Florida, and California, and then to come back here… But I loved it here.”
Plus, she said she and Bill lived out her dreams of travel through vacations across the country and to many others on several continents, throughout the next decades.
But, through all her travels, she always winded up back in Odessa, to work to serve. She said she couldn’t imagine, when she moved to Odessa in 1946, she’d still be there, and still in the medical world, in 2018.
“Boy, who knew? You just don’t think about that,” she said.
“All I knew is I wanted to go to work.”
That, she did. And instead of letting retirement stop her, she’s kept working free overtime as a volunteer ever since — and enjoyed just about every bit.
“I own my own home here, and I got a no-paying job here,” she joked. “And I like doing it. And I have no reason to leave. The only time I will ever do anything is if I get to where I can’t take care of myself. And I do everything for myself,” she paused.
“Except yard work. I quit that,” she wisecracked.