In retirement, Lair works for the good of her community

Times-News correspondent
Published: Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 1:42 a.m.

COLUMBUS - On the rare morning when she is home, quietly sipping coffee, Judy Lair thinks, "So this is what it's like to be retired."

Most days find her busily working, not for any personal gain but for the good of her community, as do many other Polk County retired citizens.

"I have heard, and I don't know if it's accurate or not," Lair said, "that there are 200 volunteer organizations in this small county."

With so many retirees in the area who were executives in their chosen fields, what you get, Lair added, are "hard workers committed to their county," who work well together.

She and her husband, Bob, first lived in Tryon in the 1980s. She worked in 1981 as a manager at the newly opened Polk County Welcome Center. Work eventually drew them elsewhere, however, and when she retired from the state of North Carolina as a child support enforcement supervisor working in Charlotte, they came back to Polk County. A native of Virginia, Lair and her husband have lived in North Carolina for about 50 years.

Surgery in March slowed her down a bit, but Lair said she is ready to get back to volunteer work. Her chosen cause for the past 15 years has been St. Luke's Hospital, where she has volunteered with the Cherry Smocks, in outpatient surgery, at the hospital's thrift store in Tryon and as president of the St. Luke's Hospital Foundation.

Her devotion to St. Luke's stems from a recognition of its importance as an institution. "Every community needs a hospital," she said, adding that stabilization of patients is crucial and smaller hospitals can provide that vital service in an area like Polk County.

"St. Luke's Hospital is able to do so much because of its volunteers," Lair said.

Her volunteer hours have run the gamut from time spent with patients to spearheading a fundraising campaign for hospital expansion. The Cherry Smocks are volunteers who deliver juice and newspapers to patients' rooms in the mornings. The St. Luke's Hospital Thrift Shop in downtown Tryon is managed completely by volunteers, with all proceeds from the sale of donated goods going to the hospital. The hospital's foundation is a network of community members who raise funds for needed equipment, facility improvements and educational programs.

Lair was president of the foundation during the two years when the "Building on Excellence" capital campaign raised over $2 million to help fund a new 15,000-square-foot wing with six large patient rooms and a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center that provides physical, aquatic and occupational therapy.

"It is lovely," Lair said of the wing completed in December, "and, I hope, the first step for future phases. That was the plan."

"In all my experience as a hospital administrator, I have never seen such energy, creativity, enthusiasm and support from a volunteer as we have in Judy," said Ken Shull, St. Luke's Hospital's chief executive officer. "Her dedication and commitment are boundless! Whether she is raising funds or friends, greeting patients or picking up donations for the St. Luke's Thrift Shop, Judy Lair is remarkable in her enthusiasm for the job at hand. She is committed 110 percent to this hospital, our quality and reputation in the community."

Other area organizations benefiting from Lair's devotion of time and talent include the Rotary Club of Tryon, where she is just finishing up a term as president; the House of Flags Museum in Columbus; and Tryon First Baptist Church, where she is a member, having served on the Board of Deacons, in the hand bell choir for 10 years and as a current member of the adult choir. She has also served as an officer for the N.C. Hospital Volunteers Board.

Her husband volunteers as a chaplain at the hospital and is on the board for the House of Flags Museum, which gives Lair another opportunity to help her community. With over 300 flags representing various eras and aspects of American history displayed, the museum is the only one of its kind in the country. Lair works in the museum's gift shop, and will, on occasion, conduct tours.

When not volunteering, Lair likes to travel and read. She and her husband have three children and six grandchildren.

For those seeking the fulfillment of donating time, talent or resources in Polk County, she recommends contacting the Foothills Chamber of Commerce for a list of the many area organizations needing assistance.

Judy Lair
Family:Married; three children; six grandchildren
Causes:St. Luke's Hopsital; Rotary Club of Tryon;Tryon First Baptist Church; House of Flags Museum