THREE RIVERS AREA Tuesday afternoon, Jan Bolding bid farewell to the place where she had worked for 38 years. Baptist Health Medical Center, Heber Springs means a lot to Bolding, 67. Before she began working there, her daughter Leigh Ann was a patient at the hospital.
Leigh Ann was admitted to Baptist Health with spinal meningitis, and the 7-year-old died in the intensive-care unit on Jan. 13, 1975.
“The people were so good to us. It was really overwhelming; they were so good to us,” Bolding said. “After she passed away, there was something special that stuck with me about the hospital, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Bolding said the enormous compassion the hospital staff showed to her during such a difficult time meant so much.
As a woman who stands tall on her Christian principles, she said, she felt led to be a part of the hospital staff.
“I always tried to seek [God’s] guidance, and I felt like I needed to be here,” she said.
She was hired as a posting clerk on April 1, 1975 - just three months after Leigh Ann’s death - making only $2.15 an hour. In May 1976, she was promoted to office manager, and in September 1992, she moved over to administration as executive secretary for the hospital’s administrator. After careful consideration and prayer, Bolding has decided it was time to retire.
“Every time I got disgusted and wanted to leave, the Lord would give me someone to witness to, and I knew it wasn’t time to leave,” she said. “When I see someone who looks sad, I stop and ask if there’s anything I can do to help. Or I see someone who looks lost and ask them if I can help. We take people; we don’t point them in a direction. … I’ve prayed about it, and now I have peace about retiring.”
Bolding said one of the biggest challenges of her job was the changing technology, but in turn, she said, the technological changes allow the hospital to give better care to its patients.
“I remember when we got our first computer; it was awful,” she said with a smile. “I didn’t have anybody to train me. I taught myself and muddled through. We all worked together. It’s all about teamwork.”
Although she is leaving her position at the hospital, she will take all of the friendships with her, along with her nickname, Little General.
“I’ve been dreading this day for a long time,” Bill Lynch said about Bolding’s retirement. “I’m the one who commissioned her general. I was the chairman of the golf tournament, and I suddenly noticed I wasn’t in charge - Jan was.”
Lynch is chairman of the Beasley Bash Golf Tournament, a major fundraiser for the Baptist Health Foundation, Cleburne County.
“I’m going to still help with the golf tournament,” she said, then laughed. “And the reason I’m called the Little General is because I’m bossy.”
Foundation board member Louis Lee also had a few words to say about Bolding.
“She knows how to crack the whip and keep us in line,” Lee said, “and we’re going to miss that.”
Bossy she may be, but she’s also nurturing. Ricky Davis, president of the foundation, said he was a little intimidated when he first came onto the foundation’s board of directors.
“I’m just a burger guy, and there were all these important people in suits and ties,” said Davis, who owns a Sonic restaurant in Heber Springs.“I wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for her. She takes care of me.”
He said he was nervous when he attended his first board meeting.
“I was feeling a little intimidated, and here comes this little lady, Jan Bolding,” Davis said with a smile. “She was too young to be my momma, but I felt like I had my momma there with me.”
Dr. Russell Harrington Jr., president and chief executive officer of Baptist Health Inc., said Bolding worked to help form the foundation and has been the driving force behind it.
“She has touched countless lives in so many ways. … Every time there was something to be done, you could assign it to her, or wait a few minutes, and Jan would pick it up,” Harrington said. “She’s the longest-tenured employee of the hospital, and that’s what you call a rock.”
Bolding has no immediate plans to do anything after she retires. The day after graduating from Searcy High School in 1962, Bolding said, she went straight into the workforce.
“I need some time to rest and make up my mind,” she said about how she will spend time after she retires. “After all this time of being so busy, I need some time to rest and decide what I want to do, but I know I won’t be sitting at home.”
She did say that she plans to spend time with her granddaughters, Sydnye, 14, and Laine, 13, who live with Bolding’s daughter Allison and son in-law, Tim Shuttleworth, in Beebe.
As a group gathered in the waiting room just outside the hospital chapel that afternoon, it was abundantly clear how much co-workers and others among the community admire her. They were anxiously waiting for her to arrive after her retirement ceremony in the hospital cafeteria.
“What can we do to give a gracious, heartfelt thank you for everything you’ve done, not just for the foundation, but for us personally?” Lynch rhetorically asked Bolding as he placed his arm around her shoulders. “When you first saw the plans for the new hospital (built five years ago) and saw the little closet that was planned for the hospital chapel, you said, ‘That’s not right.’”
Members of the Baptist Health Foundation, Cleburne County rallied together to make contributions to dedicate the larger-than-a-closet chapel to Bolding. It was a emotional surprise to her when the new name for the door plaque for the chapel was revealed.
“The chapel has meant a lot to me,” she said as she began to weep. “It was a little closet, and it just didn’t seem right.”
Lynch said, as he stood next to Bolding, “Now, you know that generals do cry.”
Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
getting to know Jan Bolding
Biggest influence: My parents, who taught me honesty and a strong work ethic
Bucket list: Travel out west and visit the Holy Lands
Hobbies: Crocheting and hiking, but most of all, spending time with my granddaughters
Most people don’t know: I’m actually a very sensitive and emotional person. I know sometimes I can appear to be all business and very factual in my approaches.
Words to describe me: Honest and a hard worker who is goal-driven each day
Three Rivers, Pages 118 on 08/05/2012
Print Headline: Jan Bolding