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Randolph County Nurse Still Helping Others at 89+ Years Old

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ELKINS -

A Randolph County nurse is still dedicated to helping others.

She's still working at an advanced age, but it's hardly a surprise to anyone who knows her.

Four days a week, Ruth Hepler puts on her white uniform and shoes and even drives herself to her work.

None of this would be noteworthy if it weren't for one thing. She's 89 years old.

"I always wanted to be in nursing," said Hepler.

You'll find Hepler spending her days overseeing and comforting patients or doing treatments as a nurse at Nella's Nursing Home in Randolph County.

That Ruth continues working as a nurse at her age is hardly a surprise to anyone who knows her. Her family and friends said she has had an incredible determination and spirit of independence throughout her life.

"You have to like it. You wouldn't do it unless you liked it. I think we all would say that," Hepler said.

Ruth was born in a small town in Virginia and grew up on a farm, one of eight children, during the Great Depression. Towards the end of high school she worked in a textile factory making plexus glass for B29 bombers as part of the war effort.

Soon after, Ruth married Frank Hepler, and devoted herself to the task of being a homemaker and mother to their five children. Ruth made fresh biscuits each day, ensured her children completed their homework, and sewed dresses for her three girls.

After her husband died, Hepler knew she needed to support her family. She enrolled in the Davis and Elkins College Registered Nursing Program. At 54, she graduated from college as an R-N in the same class as her youngest daughter.

"I was the oldest one in the class, and I wonder how the younger people would accept that. But they did fine, very comfortable with it," Hepler said.

Those who know Ruth said she still loves her work, and her patients feel the same way about her.

"It just amazes me the desire to keep on keeping on. A couple of times she's had to be off when's she had surgeries and some hospital stays, and its so cute to come back with her and the patients hugging her, and I think Nella's has been a family for her," said Paula Heinke, Ruth's daughter.

Hepler said you should never let age get in the way of a fulfilling life.

On her off days she tends to her gardens, visits with family and friends, enjoys weekly dinners with a group of friends who call themselves the "Friday Night Group," and regularly attends the First United Methodist Church. She's volunteered as a nurse in Haiti, traveled through Australia, Israel, and Chile, and fearlessly hang glided in New Zealand

"If you are going to retire to something, that's different. Just don't retire and sit down," Hepler said.