NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Odds are pretty good that you've talked with Jean Peden even if you have no idea who she is.
If you've called the main number at Mennonite Hospital, BroMenn Lifecare Center, BroMenn Regional Medical Center or Advocate BroMenn Medical Center over the past 50 years, you've probably talked with the modest, soft-spoken Bloomington resident.
Today, Peden marks 50 years as a switchboard operator with the health care institution in Normal now known as Advocate BroMenn. Even more remarkable is that Peden didn't begin at Mennonite until she was middle-aged.
Her 91st birthday is Saturday (Aug. 10).
"I enjoy it," Peden said Wednesday, before beginning her 3 to 11 p.m. shift on the switchboard. "Really, what else would I do?
"I didn't expect to work to 91 because I didn't expect to live to 91," Peden said with a smile. "But, we're still going."
"She loves coming to work," said Chris Cooper, supervisor of pre-services, which includes the switchboard.
"Jean comes to work on time, she does what's expected of her, she works well with different personalities and she has a great attitude," Cooper said.
While a stereotype of older adults is that they are set in their ways, Peden has adapted to numerous changes over the years, said Jen Luna, director of patient access.
"Things change in health care and you're expected to roll with it," Luna said. "That's what Jean does."
Peden and her husband, Ray, raised three children. In 1958, she and her mother, Hazel Claggett, began volunteering part time at Mennonite, 807 N. Main St., Bloomington. They delivered mail.
"We just liked it," she said.
In 1962, she began volunteering at the front desk. The switchboard was beside the front desk.
"They asked me one day if I'd work a couple evenings a week on the switchboard," Peden recalled. Her first shift was Aug. 8, 1963.
She enjoyed Mennonite, which she described as a small hospital where she knew nearly everyone. The switchboard's location at the front desk helped.
"Jean knew which doctors were in the house," recalled Sonja Reece, director of government affairs and property management, who worked at Mennonite.
"As an operator, you were aware of the comings and goings," Peden said.
Reece called Peden "my role model."
"She's incredibly dependable and a friendly voice to people who need a friendly voice when they call the hospital," Reece said.
Peden remained at Mennonite when it evolved into the BroMenn Lifecare Center, then moved to the switchboard at BroMenn Regional Medical Center, the former Brokaw Hospital, 1304 Franklin Ave., Normal. It now is Advocate BroMenn Medical Center.
During most of her 50 years, Peden has worked part time. Her evening shifts are on Wednesdays and every other Saturday and Sunday.
Peden has worked on four different switchboards and soon will learn to operate her fifth. Operators also announce when there are emergency codes and page doctors and staff when needed.
Peden has memorized many extensions over the years and believes that her work with numbers, learning new technology and being with people have helped to keep her mentally sharp.
"It helps you," Peden said. "Some people just collapse after they retire. For now, I'm planning to continue to work."
Peden turned to the switchboard and answered a call.
"Advocate BroMenn Medical Center."
Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/15OlnJC
Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com