After more than 50 years in Chewelah as a nurse and dedicated volunteer, 91-year-old Mary Firor has been named the Honored Citizen of 2012.
The Chewelah Chamber of Commerce, represented by President Tracy Ferrell, Theresa Shannon and past president Jared Arnold, officially presented Firor with the annual award at Sunny Acres Senior Housing on June 21.
Firor, a 12-year Sunny Acres resident, said she did not know what was going on when she showed up in the community room that day to find many close friends and family. She said she was especially confused to see her daughter, with her daughter in law and grandchildren, because she was sure she was supposed to be at work.
“It really took me by surprise,” Firor said.
Firor was nominated for Honored Citizen by Sunny Acres Manager Rebecca Blankinship and almost half of the Sunny Acres residents. Arnold said the Chamber selected her because of her long-time of public service to Chewelah.
In the nomination letter, Blankinship listed the many organizations Firor has volunteered with in Chewelah. In addition to serving 30 years as a nurse at the St. Joseph’s Hospital, she has been a part of the Chewelah Rebekah Lodge and hospital auxiliary for 34 years. She also served 10 years at the Food Bank and was the secretary of the Board of Directors of the Senior Citizens of Chewelah Valley for 6 years.
Blankinship said Firor has a positive attitude and well-loved personality.
“Mary is the sweetest, kindest person; she would do anything for anybody,” Blankinship said. “We love her…She’s a doll, always busy and still very with it. She’s just an amazing person; I want to be like her at that age.”
Originally from Lapwai, Idaho, Firor moved to Chewelah in June 1960 when her husband, Reino Macki, was hired at a nearby sawmill.
They were married in Chewelah in 1944 although they lived in Mullan, Idaho until their permanent move to the small town in Northeast Washington.
Firor has always enjoyed Chewelah for many reasons and is glad to have made it her home for 52 years.
“It’s a small enough town, I’m not a big city person,” Firor said. “I like the climate here and always found the people to be friendly and helpful; always right there to lend a hand.”
“I always say I would like to stay here until they carry me out feet first,” she laughed.
Once in Chewelah, Firor immediately started working at St. Joseph’s Hospital as a registered nurse. She had wanted to be a nurse “ever since I can remember,” she said and was first certified in 1942 after completing three years of school in Lewiston, Idaho.
At St. Joseph’s Hospital, Firor worked as a general nurse doing anything that needed to be done from helping deliver babies to surgical nursing.
She said when she would attend any career training in Spokane, the nurses there did not understand how she did everything that she did in the small hospital.
“They couldn’t understand how I could take care of the mother, baby and still clean up the mess,” Firor said.
She retired from St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1991.
Toward the end of her career, after turning 65 in 1986, Firor started volunteering at the hospital gift shop that is operated by St. Joseph’s Hospital Auxiliary.
She said she enjoyed meeting all the people in the gift shop. She especially appreciated what the gift shop offers to the Long Term Care residents who are able to buy something for a loved one at home.Firor continued volunteering there until 2010.
“I worked long enough,” she said. “I wanted to take some time for me.”
As a resident at Sunny Acres Senior Housing since 2000, Firor remains busy with many activities including crocheting, crafts and gardening in the Sunny Acres raised garden beds.
She plants a variety of produce in a 4×4 bed and 4×8 bed growing everything from tomatoes and artichokes to cucumbers and potatoes, and shares what she does not need with other residents.
Firor also enjoys trips to the Farmer’s Market on Fridays as well and shopping in Colville with her neighbor.
“It’s hard for me to sit still and not keep busy,” she said.
Firor has five children who all graduated from Chewelah, 13 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and three more on the way. She was married to Reino Macki until 1966 when he passed away. She then married George Firor in 1968, who passed away in 1976.
As Honored Citizen, Firor will be introduced at Chataqua CenterStage on Thursday, July 12, and will ride in the parade on July 14.
“Mary is one of those people you are just glad you met,” Blankinship said.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Honored Citizen Mary Firor and Chamber President Tracy Ferrell. Jared Arnold photo