95-year-old volunteer tops 20,000-hour mark

For most people, 95 years is more than a lifetime. Victor Goodman, however, is still going strong, volunteering at the UT Southwestern University Hospitals St. Paul gift shop. The 95-year-old retiree recently hit the 20,000-hour plateau for volunteer service and says he plans to continue serving as long as he can.

For Mr. Goodman, working at St. Paul has been more than a job; it has been a lifesaver. "I have enjoyed volunteering for these 29 years, and I give them [my co-workers] the credit for my living as long as I have," he said. The soft-spoken Ohio native continues to man the gift shop register two to three days each week, and is an inspiration to all who know him.

"He looks forward to coming to work here because people are always excited to see him," explained fellow gift shop employee Betty Laury. "When someone sees a person his age still volunteering, they think it is a blessing."

Originally from a small coal-mining town, Mr. Goodman grew up on a farm milking cows and delivering milk to nearby homes. He went on to work for E.A. Pearce, which later became known as Merrill Lynch, and was transferred to Dallas in 1952 as an operations manager. He retired Dec. 31, 1974, and he and his wife, Ruth, began volunteering at the St. Paul gift shop in 1976. Mrs. Goodman died in 1978, but her devoted husband continued to steadfastly serve the hospital's visitors and staff.

Volunteering at St. Paul has greatly impacted his life. He has a large circle of close friends and enjoys meeting new people each day.

"This has been a second home for me," he said. "It has kept me alive so I will continue as long as I possibly can. I don't think I could find nicer people anywhere. I have enjoyed every moment I've been here, and I appreciate the company."

Doctors tell their white-haired patient that he is doing just fine for his age. Although Mr. Goodman suffers from congestive heart disease, he starts off each day with a contagious smile. "Sometimes my legs don't go where I want them to," he said, "but I drag them along with me anyway." His keen sense of humor and continuous jokes keep all those around him laughing.

This gentle retiree's hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. The UT Southwestern University Hospital Auxiliary, the volunteer organization serving St. Paul, presented Mr. Goodman with a lifetime membership. He has been named St. Paul Auxiliary Volunteer of the Year three times -- in 1985, 1997 and 2001.

Some of his greatest memories are of his family. He is the youngest of 12, has two sons -- John and James -- seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Throughout each day, his conversations often drift back to happy family memories. Every five years, around his birthday, his family gets together for a reunion, an event he eagerly anticipates.

Since 1984, the St. Paul gift shop also has marked Mr. Goodman's birthday with a sale in honor of their dedicated volunteer. In November, the sales tags will read 96 cents. "On his birthday, [the gift shop] has a lot of special items they sell and price at his age," explained Gretchen Shaw, the gift shop manager. "It is the only sale where each year the price goes up a penny."