Paying it Forward: A Gray Lady with the Red Cross

The local chapter of the Gray Ladies organization was formed March 2, 1952 by Harriet Follett.

The Gray Lady service, a Red Cross volunteer women’s organization, started in 1918 at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. Female volunteers acted as hostesses and provided recreational services to patients, most of whom had been injured during World War I.

Pat Thrash of Williamstown began her service as a Gray Lady with the Red Cross in 1979, where she logged 472 volunteer hours. When the volunteer program at Marietta Memorial Hospital was started in 1982, the Gray Ladies were welcomed in and trained to help patients.

Currently, Pat is one of only three Gray Ladies who still remain at the hospital and they are known by the distinctive uniforms they wear.

“As of last year, Pat has 7,757 hours as a volunteer with us,” said Anna Vukovic, director of volunteer services. “She has worked in the surgical waiting area, the cancer center and right now she is helping in outpatient registration. She is very flexible and is just one of those people who is a pillar in the organization.”

Pat said it was a personal tragedy that led her in the direction of helping others, while also working, being a wife and a mother to son, Jim, and daughter, Cindy.

“I was there (at the hospital) in ’78 when my husband Charlie was in a bad wreck – he was really badly hurt and in a body cast – and I decided it was something I wanted to do, I wanted to volunteer,” she said.

Some of her volunteer duties have included walking patients to X-ray, mammogram and EMG (electromyography) through sometimes tricky remodeling and improvement work. She has seen many changes at the hospital and has seen patients and doctors come and go in her 30-plus years. But adding that extra special touch of customer service has been something that Pat has always found important.

“Some people just have got to have help and, it kind of breaks your heart, but sometimes people don’t have anyone with them and you just want to give them a hug,” she said.

Volunteering time to help others has become somewhat therapeutic for Pat as well and “keeps her going” since the loss of her husband, Charles, who passed away in 2008.

“I didn’t think Charlie was old and there were still a lot of things we wanted to do,” Pat recalled emotionally. “But we had gotten to do a lot of things, a lot of traveling…I miss him this time of year, though, more than anything, because we liked to take a fall trip.”

So Pat continues to spend five hours on Mondays helping others and healing herself.

If volunteering her time at the hospital weren’t enough, Pat, a self-professed Marietta College sports fan, is also a member of Ladies Civitan and will retire this year after playing piano at Sandhill United Methodist for close to 25 years.

“She has been very dedicated to play for the church,” said Pastor Wendy Erb. “She is also our membership secretary and helps me to figure out family connections … she has just been a blessing.”