Super Senior: Shirley McClay

Published: Nov. 29, 2019 at 8:14 AM EST
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Thanksgiving has now come and gone, but some are thankful every day for this week's Super Senior.

Super Senior Shirley McClay rounds up residents for bingo at the Vermont Residential Care Home in Vergennes. She's been helping out at the home for decades. She's not a resident, but a volunteer.

If she did live at the home, she'd be one of the oldest at 88. She says they are like family to her.

McClay is one of 18 children and grew up on a farm in the hills of Cabot.

"We didn't have electricity, any running water, no bathroom, we had to go to the well to get water in stuff and go down to the brook to have a bath if you wanted to have a bath," said McClay. "But every night my mom would come and hug and kiss us goodnight and I love you."

She credits her mom for showing her compassion for others.

This year marks her 69th year of volunteering in her native Cabot and now Vergennes.

"I really, really hope that I can last another year and that would make it 70 years of volunteering," said McClay.

But a harsh reality has hit her-- she's had four surgeries in the last year, cancer is in her gall bladder.

"Well, they think it's somewhere else in my body. I said, 'I'm not going to do anything now, I'm going to have a good birthday, the best Thanksgiving, the best Christmas and then I will decide what I'm going to do,'" said McClay.

She says she doesn't worry about dying and that friends, family and faith keep her going.

Recently she got a boost from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who praised her for a life of giving.

The letter said: "I have no doubt that your work has been an inspiration to others in the Vergennes community and for that I thank you."

She says she cherishes that letter and it proves that words do matter.

"I guess maybe part of it is it's so nice to be appreciated," she said.