By Blenda Copeland, The Citizen of East Alabama

She’s accomplished milestones that few people will ever reach.

On Monday, Irene Parker shared smiles and laughter with a room full of people who’ve been touched by her care for others.

After nearly a half century of putting others first, she is retiring.

Parker had three rounds of duty left Monday (August 20) before officially saying goodbye to a 47-year CNA career at Parkwood Healthcare in Phenix City.

When she began her career at the facility as a PRN in 1970, she was one of Parkwood’s original staff members.

Parkwood’s Director of Nursing, Jillian Glass, recalled her story: when she was first hired, she earned 75 cents an hour – a wage that was considered “good money” at the time.

Irene Parker’s certificate for completing nursing aide training in 1971.

She had a diligent work ethic: she had to catch two buses and also a ride from Phenix City’s old Cobb Hospital to get to work on Stadium Drive.

“She would go out of her way to do extra things for the residents,” added CNA Teri Dees, who’s worked with Parker for the past 25 years. Dees said Parker was hardworking and “to the point.”

“Every time we would ask for help, she was there to help,” Dees said.

Another co-worker, Brenda Goodson, worked with Parker for the past 28 years.

“I was in housekeeping,” Goodson said. She recalled the way Parker inspired her to step up to a new career. “She (Parker) would always call me ‘CNA Brenda,’” Goodson said, smiling. After working more than 20 years in housekeeping, Goodson took the leap – and earned the CNA title by which Parker had always addressed her. Today, she’s a CNA because of Parker’s encouragement.

“Irene is one-of-a-kind, and I’m gonna miss her,” Goodson said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Parker also inspired two of her sisters to become CNAs as well, one of whom also retired from Parkwood after 38 years.

The power of influence was also of help to Parker’s career: her neighbor Georgia Brooks encouraged her to apply at Parkwood.

Surrounded by former and current co-workers, as well as church members, family and more, Parker said she has really enjoyed her time working at Parkwood. “It’s hard work, but I love it,” she said.

Parkwood Healthcare honored Parker with a retirement party Monday.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published August 22, 2018, by The Citizen of East Alabama. It is republished here with permission. Click here to read the article on The Citizen of East Alabama’s website.