93-year-old Alice Graber recently retired after serving as a nurse for over 70 years. Not only was Graber the oldest nurse at the nursing home where she worked, but she was also the oldest nurse in South Dakota. After celebrating her retirement from Salem Mennonite Home where she worked for 20 years, Graber began using her free time volunteering at the nursing home and preparing authentic German dishes for her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding.
Known by her family, friends, and coworkers as a “bundle of energy,” many people have great respect for Graber who was always willing to help. Graber’s retirement party was proof of the impact she had as a nurse with over 150 people from her small town attending the party including former patients and even adults who Graber had helped deliver when they were babies.
Reflecting on how her life got her to where she is today, Graber said she lived a different life after she lost both her parents at a young age and went into the care of aunts and uncles. After high school, Graber couldn’t afford college but when her aunt in Nebraska suggested nursing, Graber moved there to search for a nursing school. Graber finally ended up enrolled in nursing school at St. Elizabeth’s School of Nursing in Lincoln where she graduated from in December 1944.
After one year of work as a nurse in Nebraska, Graber moved to South Dakota with her late husband which spurred an 11-year hiatus from nursing. However, she couldn’t stay away from her passionate nursing work forever and became a career woman far before it was acceptable for most mothers to do so. Maintaining raising a family and farm on top of a nursing career and community and church volunteer work wasn’t always easy, but Graber’s family was proud of her hard work and accomplishments.
Graber received other accomplishments during her nursing career including a Millie of the Month award and 2015 Millie of the Year award, both given by the South Dakota Healthcare association, a non-profit recognizing long-term healthcare providers. Although Graber is now officially retired, she plans to continue providing care at the nursing home where she worked by feeding and bringing trays to the residents there as her own way of coping with no longer being a practicing nurse.