By Janet Wetzel
PLEASANT RIDGE - They call her the Apple Lady. But when Pleasant Ridge resident Betty Hagerty makes her weekly visit to St. Margaret Hall nursing home in Evanston, residents know she'll bring far more than shiny, red apples.
She also brings a warm smile, a kind word and a listening ear.
Hagerty, 79, also visits residents of the Ridge Terrace and Ridge Pavilion nursing homes in Pleasant Ridge twice monthly through a church program.
"One lady always wants sunglasses," she said. "I don't know why, but I just take them to her. Others want a rosary, a prayer card or article of clothing."
The widowed mother of 10 and grandmother of 18 is on-call with the parish secretary at Nativity Church and goes in to help with clerical work as needed. She also volunteers at the Nativity School library and provides transportation to friends who need rides to the doctor, church or the grocery store.
"There are just so many people that need something to lift them up, and I'm glad I'm able to help," Hagerty said. "I've been really blessed, so I need to be paying back. Oh, I have my share of aches and pains, but if you give up you're through. Use it or lose it."
Hagerty said she decided to volunteer at Nativity in 1997, after retiring from her job teaching mentally retarded children. She took joy in listening to kindergarten children read, helping with chores such as tying shoes, and playing games with them.
For years she's made her weekly trek to St. Margaret Hall. She learned of the place when her late husband lived there. After a trip to an apple farm, she shared her apples with one resident, who was so delighted Hagerty began taking her apples regularly.
Then she realized others might enjoy an apple and a visit as well, so she became the Apple Lady.
"The residents just love to see her come in,'' said Carolyn McKinley, administrative assistant at St. Margaret. "She's a wonderful ray of sunshine, and she makes the lives of the people she visits better."
Hagerty said there are so many nursing home residents who seldom get out.
"Many of them use walkers or wheelchairs and can't get out much if any," she said.
"They look forward to even small things, like an apple, and a hug."
Do you know a Hometown Hero? E-mail Janet Wetzel at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax to 513-755-4150.
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