By Tyler S. Witkop, Turley Publications Staff Writer
Originally published as "A 'Gift of a Century': Wilbraham woman helps raise $2K for children" in “The Wilbraham-Hampden Times” on Oct. 27, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
A longtime nurse, Winnifred “Peg” Stearns is no stranger to caring for the needs of others. As a result of her generosity and her own vivid memories, children around the world will benefit from enhanced treatment at the Shriners Hospital in Springfield [, Massachusetts].
Stearns, who turned 105 in January and is the oldest living resident in Wilbraham, [Massachusetts,] helped raise more than $2,000 through sales of her book “My Journey of a Century,” which she published coinciding with her 105th birthday. Her funds helped defray the cost of an EOS machine that cost the hospital nearly $1 million and provides X-rays at nearly 90 percent less radiation exposure than traditional scans.
On Oct. 20, coinciding with the Shriners Radiothon fundraiser, Stearns was escorted to the hospital from her residence at Life Care [Center] of Wilbraham by her friends Dennis Lopata, Life Care [Center of Wilbraham executive] director, and Hampden resident and Shriner Frank Watson to be honored by the hospital and deliver her memories and wisdom to listeners across Western Massachusetts.
“I think that was wonderful,” Stearns said of her book sales, noting that profits from her $15 book helped to put the Shriners over their goal to bring in the new imaging machine. “For once in my life I have something that I myself have left behind.”
Hospital Administrator Lee Kirk stopped by Stearns to speak with her and thank her for her generosity. He told her he read her book and was fascinated by her memories and stories from the past. Particularly, he recalled one where she and her husband experienced a flat tire en route to Boston nearly 70 years ago.
Kirk told “The Times” that funds such as those from Stearns mean the hospital can expand care and services to more children each year.
“Seventy percent of the care is paid for by fundraising by groups and individuals like Peg,” he said. “It allows us to take care of 8,138 children in the last year.”
Stearns’ book covers her memories and experiences dating back to pre-World War I Nova Scotia. She and her family moved to Springfield in 1922. Stearns graduated from the nursing program at Springfield Hospital in 1932 and eventually worked as a nurse at every Springfield hospital except Shriners.
“I was born in Clyde River, Nova Scotia, on Jan. 5, 1911,” she told the Shriners and hospital administrators. “I was there, but I don’t remember it.
“I’ve always loved what you Shriners have done since I came to this country in 1922. You’ve always been special to me and I discovered I could get into your hearts.
“There is nothing that made me happier than the day that Frank [Watson] told me that my book raised $2,000 … what can you buy for $15?” Stearns said. “I got without a doubt the greatest joy when I learned that my little book built up the money for your project.”
Copies of Stearns’ book can be purchased online at createspace.com/5966976. The Shriners Hospital in Springfield receives $10 from each purchase, and all of the proceeds stay in Springfield to help the hospital deliver services to children.