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Yvonne shows no signs of stopping

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True love: Yvonne Boyd and husband Willie Boyd (Photograph supplied)

Retirement just wasn’t for Yvonne Boyd.

She’d spent 35 years running a busy maternity ward at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

When she and her husband stopped working and moved to quiet New Bern, North Carolina she was bored out of her mind.

“I was just sitting around,” the 75-year-old said. “I’m used to being busy all the time.”

So four years ago she started a second career, working as a caregiver for Home Instead Senior Care.

“They trained me,” she said. “They didn’t mind I was over 65 as long as I was healthy and could get around. You just go and help people in their homes; you clean up for them and help them to cook.”

She loved the work and always tried to go the extra mile, often pitching in during an emergency with little prior notice.

Clients began to write letters to the company, praising her.

In turn, her boss wrote a letter of his own to the head office in Nebraska, nominating her for an award.

He wrote: “Yvonne has saved the day on many occasions. She has been the only caregiver on the correct side of the bridge during an ice storm willing to take a night shift with 30 minutes’ notice. She has been that short-notice shift taker for several new clients and her fellow caregivers who may have sick children or family.”

She was stunned to learn she’d been selected from 65,000 employees to win the Mary Steibel Caregiving award.

“It was just a wonderful thing,” she said. “There were 1,200 people at the award dinner. I couldn’t believe there were that many people. I had to give a speech talking about how I got into caring for the elderly.”

She thinks her community work may have influenced her win.

When she’s not at work she’s usually helping at her church, The Word of God Christian Centre.

“Once a month I help the church give out food to the community,” she said. “Last month we served 120 families. Each family had so many people that it ended up being 300 people. There is a lot of hunger in our area. It’s so wonderful to be able to help.”

She grew up on Ord Road, in Paget and Warwick.

Her mother, Dorothy Paynter, worked at Coral Beach and her father, Henry Paynter, was a taxi driver.

An interest in nursing was kindled at 14 when her father died of a blood-related illness.

She was in her second term at the Berkeley Institute at the time.

“A few days before it happened I received top marks in the class,” she said. “I was so proud. I ran to the hospital to tell him the news. He was in an oxygen tent. He was just laying there staring into space.”

She realised he hadn’t much longer to live.

“I ran out of that hospital crying my heart out,” she said.

A few days later she got a call at school saying to come home; her father had died.

“He was 38, too young to die,” she said. “Today you’d be able to do research and find a possible solution, but not back then.”

Mrs Boyd thought she’d have to drop out of school.

“Back then you had to pay school fees,” she said. “I was the second eldest of five. My mother had five children to take care of and couldn’t afford school fees.”

A kindly aunt, Mary Johnston, and several other family members helped pay her way. She also worked two jobs when she wasn’t in school to help her mother.

When she came of age, she did her nursing training in the UK at West London Hospital and Queen’s Hospital.

She then spent a year working with people with physical disabilities in Reading.

After a brief return to Bermuda, she married a man she’d met in England.

He was an attorney, and they travelled extensively for his job. The marriage didn’t last, and after eight years they parted ways in New York City.

“We had no children,” she said. “That was a relief because it would have been a stretch to support a child on my own.”

She got a job as an administrator at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“I worked with the staff, mostly in the maternity units,” she said. “I was in charge of mothers and babies.”

She then met her second husband, Willie Boyd.

“People call Willie a genius,” she said. “He can repair any kind of machinery. I’ve never had to take my car to a mechanic since knowing him. He used to work in laundromats in New York maintaining the equipment. A few years ago he did some work at King Edward [VII Memorial Hospital] helping them repair machinery there. I didn’t know him then, but he met my brother.”

Her brother introduced the two of them.

“Then Willie came to my house to take some things back to Bermuda for my parents,” she said. “He was doing some work at the hospital.”

Suddenly, Mr Boyd was popping around more and more frequently to say hello.

They fell in love and married in 1986.

Shortly after marriage they retired from their respective jobs and moved to his home town of New Bern.

“I decided I wasn’t going back to Bermuda because I wasn’t able to acquire any land,” she said.

“I will continue as a caregiver for as long as I can go on. I am elderly but I am not aching. I am keeping healthy. I have my car and I drive myself and I take care of my husband.”

A life of service: Yvonne Boyd (Photograph supplied)