She calls herself “a retired nurse practitioner.” There’s a lot more to Pauline Shaver than that.
A number of firsts and a batch of awards pepper the story of a life marked by volunteerism, especially in health care, particularly for the West Virginia National Guard.
In 2014, the health ministry outreach projects she oversees through St. Mark’s Methodist Church earned her the nationally coveted Jefferson Award for Public Service. You don’t earn that in a rocking chair.
In 2004, the state National Guard named her as the state’s first full-time female colonel. Some have questioned that. She doesn’t care. Her work benefits veterans. That defines her.
Don’t bother asking her age. Her answer: “Ageless.”
At a time when others would be resting on their laurels (considerable in this case), she’s chipping away at a doctorate in counseling. Why quit now?
“I don’t have any age. Age is a state of mind. I was was sitting in this room with Rod Blackstone, my Sunday school teacher. We were talking about Christmas memories, and he was pressing about my age. I asked him, ‘How old is Santa?’ He said, ‘Endless and timeless.’ I said, ‘Well, so am I.’
“The difference between me and my significant other of two years ago was 20 years. He said the difference between us doesn’t matter. It’s just a state of mind.
“But yes, I am working on my doctorate in counseling. I’m not pushing it. I may never get it. That doesn’t matter because I’m working with the vets.
“I was born in Morgantown and lived there 40 years. I wanted to be a nurse. My mother wanted to be a nurse, but at first, she wasn’t allowed to finish because nursing students couldn’t be married. So they eloped.
“I was one of six children, the second daughter. Ann Ruth Hartley lived next door to us. My house is still behind Drummond Chapel at the stadium. My mother put a pillow on the clothesline when she went into labor, and Mrs. Hartley came over and delivered me at home.
“I did one semester at WVU and dropped out. Because my mother and dad eloped, he was afraid I wouldn’t finish.
“Finally, they pressured him to let me go. I went to a three-year diploma school in Clarksburg and started working as a nurse.
“Dr. Summers Harrison sponsored me for a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. I was the first nurse practitioner in West Virginia.
“It was in Preston County where they had a shortage of doctors, and the federal government hired me along with three physicians in Kingwood to take care of that.
“So I was able to do what doctors do long before other doctors were doing it.
“They had just changed the law to allow teenagers to have birth control without parental consent. Preston County had the highest rate in the nation. When I was allowed to teach a human sexuality class in the school system, that rate dropped.
“I was employed five years with the federal government’s health care program. When I terminated, Dr. Harrison, the state surgeon, said he needed me back. He wanted me to join him the National Guard. They didn’t have a full-time health care provider. So I came into the National Guard with my daughter, Joy, in 1981.
“She became a paratrooper and led National Guard units in Desert Storm and came home with a Bronze Star.
“I prepared all our National Guard veterans to go to Desert Storm in the event they were called.
“Joy and I were the first mother-daughter members of any National Guard service in the country, including the first mother-daughter members of the Women’s Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
“I took 15 courses to be the first disaster nurse certified by the Red Cross in West Virginia and guard’s first Occupational Health and Safety Officer.
“I helped start hospice, training the first group of volunteers, and I coordinated the first healthy baby conference in Preston County for the state and received the health education award.
“After hospice work, Jim Caudill, my eye doctor, asked me to go with him on a medical mission with the National Guard to Honduras.
“I paid my way to go. It cost about $3,000.
“The people we served would make things for us. [She holds up one of several needlepoint pieces embroidered in Spanish.] I told them, ‘You need to tell me what this says.’ It said, ‘We will not forget you.’
“I lost my last son after heart surgery at WVU when he was 3 months old. I was challenged physically and financially to raise a 6-, 4- and 2-year-old, but I did it.
“I worked in Head Start and Follow Through when it started and for the Monongalia health department.
“I was hired here as a community health minister for two years. I had a medical lending closet to talk to anyone about any kind of health problem.
“They realized that I was pretty strong at doing what the ministers did. As a result, my position was phased out, and they hired a full time minister. Based here at St. Mark’s, I still do volunteer work for the Methodist churches as their community health minister. But I’m working as a volunteer now.
“In 2004, I was promoted to a full colonel. Getting to be a colonel was a challenge in a male military facility where there weren’t other female officers until later.
“Being a woman in the health care field made the difference. That was my ticket, because from leaving the military, I went on to do all these other positive things.
“Through our medical outreach program, we see 4,000 patients in two weeks and do 400 cataract removals.
“I worked with Dr. Dennis Sparks as the medical disaster chair for the West Virginia Council of Churches.
“Thirty-third Street belongs to CAMC. When I moved here and CAMC started tearing down houses, they talked to landscaper Tom Vasale about landscaping on 33rd Street. We put in the roses by the steps.
“Hospital workers shouldn’t have been out there in their scrubs sitting on the dirty steps and carrying germs back to the patients. That stopped when the CEO came over and sat on my porch.
“My life has been good. The challenges were tough sometimes. I’m a 35-year breast cancer survivor. Raising three children through all of this wasn’t easy.
“I lost two of my significant others. I was getting ready to go with Dr. Harrison to San Diego when he died of a heart attack on the plane. So my personal relationships haven’t survived.
“When John Denver came to WVU to sing ‘Country Roads’ at the first game in the new stadium, he gave us a Christian CD. Our patients there have a preliminary week before we start our day of surgery. They know John Denver’s music and they sing it loud and clear.
“We work with four different groups in medical outreach and we do Christmas bags for the veterans.
“I’ve worked with FEMA and VOAD and did all the immunizations. Before other places got certified, we did probably 1,000,000 immunizations.
“Monty Brown, our [retired] pastor, put a big sign out front that said ‘Come get your flu vaccine here. Best stick in town.’
“I worked with 4-H camps and Manna Meal and volunteered at the Clay Center, Covenant House and the National Youth Science Camp.
“In 2014, I received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, our equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize, for my volunteer work.
“My life has been enriched by the experiences I’ve had the people I’ve met in this special state. I’ve never once regretted living here. Home is West Virginia and West Virginia is home.”