Glennis McAlpine makes a presentation to Kay with onlooker Michele Cardilini
by Gay Liddington
Kay Miller recently celebrated her 70th birthday and 40 years of full time work at the Maleny Soldiers Memorial Hospital. She was honoured with a celebration morning tea at the hospital, and writer Gay Liddington joined her for cake and conversation.
Born in Crows Nest, Kay’s family settled in Maleny when she was a child. Her schooling took her through to Grade 8 but it was not a place of happy memories.
“I hated school and would have left in Grade 1 if I could have,” she said vehemently.
Kay was married and had her first child when she discovered her love of cooking. She decided to enter her cakes in the Maleny Show.
“I used to stay up until all hours at night cooking and wrapping cakes ready for the show. I entered in every section and did very well with awards,” she reflected.
Kay’s interest and enjoyment in her home kitchen led her to apply for a position at the local hospital. On April 6, 1977, she began her new career.
“We were called Domestics in those days. You had to be multi skilled because we did a mix of jobs like cooking as well as ward work.”
Ten years after Kay began at the hospital which was where the Ambulance Station is now situated, another was built across the road. The transition from old to new took place in September, 1987. It was time of mixed emotions.
“I loved it there, it was a lovely old building. Moving over the road was exciting but very busy. We carted all the stuff across on trolleys, daytime and night time.”
Kay talked about how her duties have changed over the years and the title of Domestic is no longer used. They are now known as Operational Officers who mainly work in the wards serving meals and cleaning the 25-bed hospital.
“I love interacting with the patients. You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. That’s what we get paid for, to be caring and kind. That’s the bottom line.”
Diminutive in stature but big in spirit, Kay speaks glowingly of her workmates.
Kay Miller with daughter Amanda Rook, mother Dulice Sperling and grandchildren Jake and Kayla Rook
“We’ve got such a great team. We’re all so closely knitted. We get on fabulously and that’s why you keep going back, don’t you?
“There’s never a day goes by when I don’t want to be at work. It’s a very caring place.”
Kay Miller’s 70th birthday was celebrated at the Witta Recreational Club.
“My girls Jody and Amanda gave me a party. About 80 people came including husband Barry Miller and my mum Dulice Sperling who is 91. The kids had a jumping castle – it was a perfect day. You couldn’t have asked for anything nicer.
“Family is everything to me. I have six grandchildren and I just live for them.”
Apart from time with grandchildren and full time work, Kay loves to play cards.
“Our favourite lunch time hobby at work is playing Euchre. We play four at a time. Usually there’s three of us on the kitchen and so we get a ‘wardy’ out to make up the four.”
During my time at the hospital morning tea I was surrounded by a group of willing storytellers. While Kay Miller tends to ‘keep her cards close to her chest’, her workmates were more forthcoming.
Margie Martin, friend, card player and colleague of 35 years shared, “Kay is a real character.
“Years ago, we used to have work parties. Kay is a really good cook and would sometimes make lamingtons. Being a bit of a practical joker she couldn’t help herself but put a couple of fake ones on the plate. She would cut some sponge rubber into blocks then coat them with chocolate icing and coconut for the unwary.”
Tony, a wardsman and often seconded card player showed his hand by throwing in a few comments about the game.
“When I came to work here they didn’t say what’s your experience or where are you from, they asked if I could play cards! It seems like there’s been a 30-year Euchre game going on here.”
There were no sponge rubber lamingtons on the table overflowing with all manner of treats. However, the gathering overflowed with love and admiration for Kay.
Glennis McAlpine, Acting Director of Nursing spoke highly of Kay Miller and her service to the hospital, then presented her with a large, plain paper wrapped box. It seemed to emanate sounds of a puppy. The look on Kay’s face was one of disbelief while surrounded by laughter from onlookers.
Kay placed the box on the floor, kneeled and unwrapped it with the assistance of her three-year old grandson, Jake Rook. Much to Kay’s delight the box revealed a photobook, a catalogue of memories.
I was later told that a previous employee had been given a puppy on her retirement last year. Kay had remarked that they’d better not ever give her a pet to take home. The barking that was heard was in fact made by a toy dog which when passed to Kay, she quickly handed on to her grandson. It seems that the joker had been trumped.
Before departing I ventured to pose the question of retirement to Kay Miller.
“Definitely not!” Her response was adamant and so I left wondering if she’ll be ready for that puppy at her 50-year celebration.