If anyone knows about sorrow and pain, it’s Fort Scott resident Caroline Lowry. Known for her dedication to serving others as a volunteer at Mercy Hospital, she’s been a beacon of hope and comfort for hundreds.
But there were many times in her life when she was the one who needed comforting. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Caroline lost her husband, Ruben, to Parkinson’s disease three years ago, and she lost her daughter in a car accident some years before that.
“My daughter was 30 years old when she died, and it was particularly hard because she was following in my footsteps as an educator. I taught for 45 years. I felt like I lost that extension of me,” said Caroline.
While Caroline’s dream of passing on her education legacy may not have gone as she’d hoped, she can be certain she’s building a legacy of service and love in all the lives she touches. Even though her background was in education, Caroline tapped into her experience as a minister’s daughter and as a minister’s wife (Ruben served in the Church of God Holy) to eventually serve as a pastoral volunteer at Mercy Hospital.
“When I was in college I was a nurse aide at St. Luke’s on The Plaza in Kansas City. I was going to school for teaching, but I always admired the hospital volunteers. I said then and there I wanted to volunteer in a hospital when I retired. So for the past 16 years that’s what I’ve done,” said Caroline. “I’ve put in around 6,000 hours. My husband was involved in volunteering at the hospital in pastoral care until he passed away three years ago. Before he died, I was very involved with the gift shop, but when I returned from a leave of absence after caring for him, that position was taken, so I found something else to do.”
That something else was ministering to patients and family members, as well as other positions like clerical work at the pharmacy.
“In was natural for me to go into pastoral care. We work with the chaplain, though none of us are ministers. We’re lay people, and I come every morning to visit with people. Sometimes, they ask for devotionals. Other times, we just talk. It can be emotional, sure, but I leave it at the hospital before I go home.”
Caroline’s ability to help others while still maintaining her own health is something to be admired. And if giving her time and compassion weren’t enough, she also gives her artistic talents.
“We make what’s called ‘care bears’ for the children in the hospital, and sometimes older adults who want something to hold onto. We make about 50 bears a month. We’ve had various volunteers help with this, even some tenants from Fort Scott Presbyterian Village. I was also asked once to make special pillows for patients who’d had abdominal surgery. They hold it over their stomach when the laugh, cough, sneeze, etc. So I make those, too. I think we’ve made a thousand or so by now.”
If you or anyone you know has been a patient at Mercy Hospital, chances are you’ve been touched by the selfless soul who is Caroline Lowry. So what’s her secret? With 80 years of experience, how does she find the physical and emotional strength to continue her ministry?
“I find a lot of comfort in writing. I’ve belonged to a writing club since I moved to Fort Scott many years ago. I’ve gravitated to poetry, because you can express so much,” said Caroline. “And the volunteer work is what gives me the incentive to get out and stay active. The blessings you get outweigh the blessings you give when you’re volunteering. Keep your mind and keep your body as active as you can. Keep going.”
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank Caroline Lowry and all of the volunteers at Mercy Hospital, and in this community, for doing so much to help those in need.