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A full day makes for a full life


When 3 p.m. rolls around, Agnes Gusten is at home, settled in her comfortable easy chair, listening to fine music and relaxing after a busy day of volunteering.

She has been at work since 7:30 a.m. Six days a week, she works at Palms of Pasadena Hospital in the records department where she performs her valuable duties. She files doctors' reports, lab tests results and patient statistics into files or bins.

It is vital that she be accurate and up-to-date. She has a remarkable talent for remembering names and can quickly discern if the name is an active, recent or former patient. "They marvel at my ability to remember names," Agnes said as she chuckled at the staff's amazement.

Agnes Gusten was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa. She was sixth in a family of 11 children, six of whom were boys. "I was a tomboy and climbed trees, played baseball and got into fights," Agnes said. They lived in the country, drove in the cows and did other farm chores. After the family moved to town and she graduated from high school, she went to business college. She wanted desperately to be a nurse, but her father said no. The closest she could get to her dream was to be a secretary for a doctor after she graduated from the Duffs Iron City Business College in Pennsylvania.

During World War II, Agnes worked in the American Steel Foundry where she met her husband, an engineer for U.S. Steel. He took a break to enter the service but returned to U.S. Steel and continued there until his retirement. After the war, Agnes went back to her first love, the medical profession. She worked as a secretary for three doctors.

Her husband died in 1974, and she moved to Florida the next year. It was then that she began her volunteer career. She began with the American Cancer Society, making bandages and pads until 1977. For a while she worked at the Social Security office in South Pasadena, until 1979 when she went to Palms of Pasadena Hospital. There she has stayed, never straying far from her love of the medical field. For a while she volunteered at Gulfport Elementary School and also helped at a nursing home, Bay Pointe Nursing Pavilion.

She has logged more than 20,000 volunteer hours at Palms of Pasadena Hospital alone. In 1986 Agnes was recognized by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) for her service when she was awarded the key to the City of St. Petersburg and was also inducted into the Senior Hall of Fame. She received an honorable mention again in 1990.

On the coffee table are trophies for volunteer service and the walls of the living room and hall are decorated with plaques, certificates and proclamations from various organizations for her many years of volunteer service.

Arthritis has limited her mobility, but not her devotion to helping others. The intensity and accuracy of her work in the medical records department help her to keep mentally alert and sharp, she said.

She has two daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren whom she gets to see several times a year. "I stay so busy, I don't get lonely," Agnes said.

Betty Hayward is director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Pinellas County. You can write her c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731.


Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP): 327-8690

Family Resources Volunteer Services: 893-1140