LeConte’s Oldest Volunteer Turns 98
A roomful of well-wishers, balloons and a cake bearing the U.S. Marine Corps seal, LeConte Medical Center recently celebrated the birthday of its oldest volunteer. David Barber, 98, is one of the first faces patients and visitors see when they walk into the hospital lobby.
“He’s just wonderful,” says Mary Bundren, LeConte’s volunteer services coordinator. “He volunteers three or four days a week, and if we have somebody out he’s always willing to say, ‘Call me. I’ll come in.’”
Barber’s been on the move for many years. He says exercise is the key to a long and happy life, both physically and mentally.
“I don’t like sitting around and doing nothing,” Barber says. Many people have been inspired by his energy and positive attitude.
“He’s an amazing, godly man,” says longtime friend Doug Michael. The two first met working together as hospital volunteers. Michael joined the volunteer staff the year the new hospital opened, and Barber joined the year after.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran and he’s a World War II veteran,” Michael says. “David and I have been a lot of places together, and I just love him so much. I’m just so happy to know him.”
Years of Service
Serving his country during World War II as an ordnance coordinator in the South Pacific, Barber met many challenges. He also met his wife in the Marine Corps.
After the war, Barber received a degree from the University of Tennessee and coached high school football for 19 years. In addition to nine years working as a high school principal, Barber taught first aid and water safety to hundreds of people through the American Red Cross.
Retiring from teaching only meant transitioning into another service role. Barber took up law enforcement, serving as a Sevier County deputy for 10 years.
When Phyllis Barber died 12 years ago after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, her husband had some decisions to make about the future. Barber knew his wife would want him to keep living life to the fullest.
“I decided I’d volunteer and do something to help other people,” he said. “I like helping other people.”
So Barber made contact with LeConte Medical Center and launched into a new way of serving others. Stationed at the hospital’s information desk, Barber helps patients in and out of the hospital and gives directions to people who need help finding their way.
LeConte Medical Center Chief Administrative Officer Gaye Jolly shared in the celebration of David Barber’s birthday. Jolly calls Barber “an inspiration,” and she says volunteers like Barber are the hospital’s lifeblood.
“Our hospitality greeters are the ones who have the first contact with our patients, making them feel welcome,” Jolly says. “They do a lot of tasks for us that otherwise would not get done.”
Jolly praises Barber and says seeing a 98-year-old man offering assistance to other people should be a lesson to us all.
“If David can do it at his age, why can’t we all?” Jolly says. “There’s a lot of life ahead even if you’re not working at your job or your career anymore. He’s a treasure.”
LeConte Medical Center has a wide variety of opportunities for willing volunteers. “There’s a place for everyone,” Jolly says, “and it’s great to be able to do something so valuable to your community.”
To learn more about being a hospital volunteer, visit www.LeConteMedicalCenter.com/volunteer or call 865-446-7000 and ask for Mary Bundren.