32-year employee and ‘mother of the department’ retires

Housekeeper Mary Christianson said she felt like family at Sanford

Mature women in scrubs smiles among laundry shelves at a Sanford hospital.

If Mary Christianson had her way, she’d still be working at Sanford Health in Canby, Minnesota.

The 85-year-old worked at Sanford Health for 32 years. Clocking in for her first shift in 1990, she worked in housekeeping and laundry eight days a month.

“My husband passed away,” she explained. “I needed to do something to occupy my time, and I like people. I enjoyed being a part of the organization and learning all about it,” said Christianson.

Unplanned retirement

However, a few months ago she had to stop punching the clock. An ovarian cancer diagnosis forced her to retire.

“That was very difficult. I only work eight days a month and I thought, ‘I’m going to give it a try and wing it. Wouldn’t it be something if I could be employed here until I’m 90?’ Well, I didn’t have that opportunity, so I had to retire and put in my resignation after my 85th birthday on May 2nd,” she said.

Christianson said she has a rare form of ovarian cancer. She was shocked because she’s always been healthy. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to miss work because I was sick or anything. I’ve always been really blessed because of that,” she said.

Ovarian cancer: Symptoms and why it’s hard to diagnose

The day Christianson put in her resignation, her absence was immediately felt, said Jason Anderson, the director of long-term care services at Sanford Health in Canby.

“That was a rough day,” he said. “We kind of called her the mother of the department, because she always wanted to make sure everyone was happy.”

“She always went out of her way to make sure everybody was comfortable. She liked to joke around. She always brought the team together to do stuff outside of work. She just really loved her job, and it hurt her to have to make that decision to leave,” added Alyssa Bertamus, Christianson’s supervisor within the department.

Anderson said Christianson’s work ethic “couldn’t be matched.”

“To be 85 years old and still wanting to work, and being passionate about coming to work every day. I’d love to clone her, because we need people like that. She’s just a ball of fire, full of passion,” he laughed.

‘I felt like I was part of a family’

Christianson’s cancer is rare, and fast growing.

“I’m doing chemo(therapy). I’m on my second round of three chemos. I had laparoscopic surgery done because the first round of chemo shrunk the tumor, so they were able to do surgery. I’m healing from that, and like I said, I’ve got two more chemo treatments to take and then I’m done. I can’t have any more,” she explained.

“I’m hoping that this chemo that I’m having now will shrink the tumor,” she added.

Christianson said she misses working at Sanford every day.

“I miss the people most of all. I felt like I was part of a family.”

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Posted In Canby, Non-Clinical Support Services, Sanford Stories