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Longtime East Texas hospital volunteer turns 100, honored

September 13, 2018

TYLER, Texas (AP) — In the months after Vennie Jackson retired from a 36-year teaching career, the then-70-year-old realized she had more free time than she’d bargained for.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports after a period of sitting at home, and often peeking out the window when hearing cars and people pass by, she concluded that she needed to find another way to give back to society.

“I’m not a homebody,” Jackson, of Tyler, said. “I need to be involved in doing something to help somebody else.”

The following year, she found her next venture by becoming a volunteer at UT Health Tyler, formerly East Texas Medical Center.

She is one of the first faces people see when they walk into the hospital’s main entrance on Wednesday mornings and turn to the front desk.

Jackson assists visitors by looking up the names of patients on a computer and giving turn-by-turn directions.

“She knows the hospital very well because she has been at the hospital going on 31 years,” Joyce Brown, director of volunteers at UT Health Tyler, said. “She is so dependable, and she is willing to do anything anybody asks her to do.”

It turns out that one of the hospital’s most faithful volunteers is also its oldest.

Jackson turned 100 years old on Tuesday. In appreciation for her service to UT Health Tyler, the hospital held her a birthday party in its skywalk.

Hospital administrators, volunteers and other staff joined in with Jackson’s family and friends in showing their love for her and sharing stories of her care and commitment to others.

Mary Hubbard, of Tyler, said she has enjoyed her experience volunteering with Jackson on Wednesdays, adding that she helps Jackson when she gets a little “bumfuzzled” using the computer.

In honor of her birthday, Mayor Martin Heines proclaimed Sept. 11, 2018, Vennie Lee Jackson Day in Tyler. She also was given a certificate from Gov. Greg Abbott and a United States flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol that was provided by Rep. Louie Gohmert.

Born in Bullard in 1918, Jackson is the second of 12 children. She holds a master’s degree in English and taught the subject at Whitehouse Independent School District for 36 years.

She said she was extremely touched by Tuesday’s party and the dozens who showed up to honor and celebrate her life. Jackson said her volunteering at the hospital, frequent exercise and faith in God have contributed to her becoming a centenarian.

She also has advice for others looking to live fulfilling lives.

“My advice would be to stay involved, to love people, to trust in God and to give service,” she said. “Life (is not) about me, but it is about what I can do to help somebody else.”

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Information from: Tyler Morning Telegraph, http://www.tylerpaper.com

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