For over four decades, Sharon Hundley has been at the forefront of patient care in Lamar County. Working as a Unit Secretary, Hundley recently bid farewell to a life dedicated to ensuring the supervision of staff and patients in Lamar County’s hospital system.
“The hardest part was saying goodbye to my work family,” Hundley said. “A family that I care for so much, who do their best to make sure everyone that they meet is at their best.”
Beginning a lengthy career back in 1976, Hundley fell into her line of work, which gave her a lifetime worth of experiences and an extended family she will treasure even after retirement.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” she said. “I think it will hit me on Sunday when I would be preparing for the new work week.”
As she began to reflect on her work life, Hundley expressed great gratitude for the career she is now stepping away from; a job that really began in High School when she volunteered as a Candy Striper.
“From the moment I began my career, it was exciting,” she said. “Every day was different. And it didn’t matter if I was working part-time or full time, or what campus of the hospital — you just never knew what was going to come through the doors next. I just loved to see what challenge I would face each day.”
As Unit Secretary, Hundley conversed with everyone, which ranged from doctors and nurses, to patients and their families along with other staff and volunteers.
Hundley multi-tasked her way through her shifts, ensuring that everyone had what they needed to do their job to the best of their abilities.
“You could say I ‘ran the show,'” she said, with a giggle. “My colleagues were my family, and as a great family, we became a great team. I just loved the people I worked with over the years.”
And over the years, Hundley had the privilege of working with generations of her extended family, which included working with many of her coworkers’ children during and beyond their pregnancies. Coming full circle, she treasured the experience of seeing the “new generation” unfold before her eyes and having a small part to play in their developing careers for the healthcare industry.
Fondly known as “Mother Hundley,” retiring wasn’t something she was initially searching for. Rather, it was the timing of the COVID-19 that spurred her to step into the next chapter of her life.
“I had tossed around the idea over the last year or so when people would ask me about it, but it never stuck, I just loved my job and career and wasn’t ready to retire. Then, after returning to work in March from a short vacation, and having to be confronted with the perils of the coronavirus, things changed,” she said.
With her age and some underlying health issues, Hundley said that being in a high-risk category herself, and having to work at the hospital in a high-risk environment spurred the decision to retire as an easy one.
“My boss had me take a few weeks off when it first hit us, and during that time, I felt better about the notion of not putting myself in harm’s way. It was very scary when I did go back, to have to face this pandemic in a high-risk environment, people don’t realize how serious this is. So, something inside me told me it was time to bid farewell,” she said.
Although she felt a degree of guilt, stepping away from a career she built and loved, Hundley said she is happy for the time given, but it was now time to give back to herself.
“It’s time to think about myself, and that is exciting,” she said.
Already settling into and continuing to process her first week of retirement, Hundley hasn’t necessarily slowed down. She has kept herself busy with plenty to look forward to.
“My oldest grandson is in the Air Force and stationed in North Dakota. So me and Bob are looking forward to visiting him,” she said. “Then our second oldest is just about to graduate from the Air Force as well, so we are waiting to see where we get to go for that next visit.”
From girl’s trips with her sisters to enjoying time with her husband and delving into some home projects, Hundley plans on using most of her free time to enjoy the lighter side of life now that her work life has come to an end.
“I’m excited to spend more time with my family, but I’ve also lined up some lunch dates with my work family. They are still going to be a big part of my life, just outside the workday now,” she said.
As for Hundley’s love and admiration for her work family, the outpouring from past and present colleagues also took her by surprise as not just her family celebrated a lustrous career, but a community as well.