Reflecting on nearly a half century of service
In 1969, man first landed on the moon, 350,000 fans gathered at Woodstock and a 17-year-old woman supporting herself after both parents had died of cancer started a job she thought would last just one year.
Sally Kirchoff retires from Legacy Health this month after working for more than 48 years at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, most of her years serving in pediatrics. Currently she serves as the office assistant and in-kind coordinator for Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. In the early years, she coordinated prescription drugs, assisted nurses, wrote up doctor’s orders, handled supplies and even quieted crying babies as she worked alongside the medical staff as a unit secretary and in other support roles.
Recalling those years, Kirchoff says her favorite memory is when former President Gerald Ford visited the hospital. But she didn’t go hear his 1977 speech. As hundreds gathered outside, she relished the quiet moments she had to organize her desk.
"Everybody, even the doctors, left to go to the speech. I stayed. It was like heaven on earth because I got to get caught up on orders. We were so busy at the time. I’ll never forget how I loved it."
Kirchoff says she’s never been excited about the “hoopla.” She relished the day-to-day experiences at the hospital. “The people I admired the most were the everyday people who had hearts of gold and worked so hard for everyone. Those were my heroes.”
Kirchoff never married or had children of her own. She considers the many generations of kids that passed through the hospital as her family. She believes she survived a series of layoffs because, while some other older women hated crying babies, she loved children and always had a special knack in helping them sleep. “I simply survived because I loved the children.”
One of the most traumatic experiences she witnessed at the hospital came in 1986. A climbing accident on Mount Hood claimed the lives of seven students and two adults from the Oregon Episcopal School. “It was horribly traumatic for the entire campus. Our doctors and nurses suffered so much. That was a horrific time … and it was so sad for the families … it was crushing.”
She has plenty of memories to laugh about, too. She once was in charge of leeches, and after the companies stopped sending them on ice (which was used to slow them down) they went everywhere when she opened the package.
Kirchoff says she plans to spend three months "doing nothing" and then will visit some nonprofit organizations to choose a volunteer activity with a charitable cause. She’s been very involved with her church, helping with fundraising for a Haiti charity, among other projects.
“The number of patient, family, and staff lives that Sally has touched and brought joy to is incalculable,” said Cindy Hill, R.N. vice president and chief nursing officer at Randall Children’s Hospital."Her sweet demeanor and willingness to help anyone in need will be so dearly missed."
For media inquiries, contact Ashley Stanford Cone.
Photos courtesy of Sally Kirchoff and Legacy staff.