Woman celebrates 60 years without a sick day

April 25, 2011 8:29:40 PM PDT
Elena Griffing, 85, is a remarkable woman and is celebrating 65 years on the job. She hasn't had a sick day since Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated president.

The energetic woman has been working for Alta Bates Summit for 65 years.

"I love to come to work. I really, truly do," said Griffing.

She started in 1946 when Harry Truman was president. Back then, minimum wage was 40 cents an hour. She has never stopped wearing three-inch high heels, even after hospital founder Alta Bates told her to stop wearing them because she might fall and sue.

"You cannot not smile when you see Elena walking down the hall; I mean, running down the hall," said critical care Dr. Glenn Petersen.

She got hired when she came in for lab tests and the phone was ringing nonstop.

"One of the doctors said, 'What do you do?' and she said, 'I'm a secretary' and he said, 'Well answer the damn telephone.' She answered the telephone and they hired her," said Elena's brother "Bud" Celestre.

And Elena hasn't had a sick day in 60 years.

"I wouldn't have gone home then because I wasn't sick. They made me go home and I was furious," said Griffing.

When she had her appendix out, she was back on the job the next day, typing with an IV in her arm. Back then she had one of Berkeley's first electric typewriters, but she succumbed to the computer.

"I'm still learning. I got one 15-minute lesson," said Griffing.

"She's relevant, she's modern, she's refreshing, her attitude is just amazing," said Alta Bates Summit CEO David Bradley.

Elena is still a member of the Frank Sinatra Fan Club. And how does she get to work?

"I drive now. I didn't learn how to drive until I was 67," said Griffing. "I want to go from my desk to the morgue with nothing in between."

He says she'd like to work another five years and the CEO says "How can you refuse an offer like that?"

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