Nearing 99, still going strong
BY ERIN GALLAGHER Correspondent June 28, 2013 3:00PM
Harriett Stutz celebrates her 99th birthday at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center, where she has volunteered for 18 years. | Erin Gallagher~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 2, 2013 6:29AM
Every Wednesday morning, she gets off the treadmill, puts on a pink smock and heads to Presence St. Joseph Medical Center to volunteer.
Last week, the routine changed a little: There was a cake waiting for Harriet Stutz of Joliet, who turns 99 on Tuesday.
Her friends at the hospital helped her celebrate. Stutz has volunteered there for nearly two decades.
“I did other volunteering at other places, and one day I saw a uniform and thought, ‘That’s where I’ll go,’ ” she said.
Stutz said she doesn’t feel 99, though. Other than eyedrops and one daily pill, she doesn’t take any medication regularly, and she doesn’t suffer from arthritis.
“If my hearing and my eyesight was as good as the rest of my body, I’d be in great shape,” Stutz said. “I have hearing aids and they’re a real pain in the neck but they’re better than not having them.”
Stutz walks two miles on the treadmill, six days a week. Her only day of rest is Sunday. Otherwise, she keeps moving.
Her volunteer work at the hospital involves delivering mail, which takes her all over the hospital.
Until recently, she was sorting the mail. Because her sight was getting worse she figured she was making her fellow volunteers do most of the work and asked for another task.
She learned how to use a computer at age 90. The mail room started a system of updating patient addresses and Stutz needed to learn it to volunteer there.
“If you don’t decide that you’re old, I think it helps you just keep doing what you’re doing,” she said.
Stutz voluntarily gave up her driver’s license a few years ago, which earned her a thank you letter from the state. Until then, she was driving other senior citizens, most of whom were younger than her, to their doctors appointments.
“It’s amazing to me how sharp her mind is,” director of volunteer services Shannon Morgan-Jermal said.
Stutz, who has lived through two world wars, man’s landing on the moon, the rise of the computer age and more, said things certainly have changed in her lifetime.
“I was 4 when the first world war ended, and I can still remember everybody being out in the street and the guns shooting off,” she said. “Now there is so much more in the way of abuse and murders, so things have not changed for the better.”
Stutz grew up on the hill in the Ridgewood neighborhood. There were no streetlights then, and so people walked everywhere in the dark. She has since moved to the West Side.
During the day, she stays busy. Her advice to others is to stay active.
“Don’t sit in the rocking chair and feel sorry for yourself,” she said. “If you never quit, you keep on working.”