Smile Politely

Celebrating CU Life: Zoe Warner

Zoe Warner is a retired nurse I met when I worked at Champaign County Christian Health Center. The work at the clinic was immense and at times very trying on the dedication volunteers had. Zoe was one of the volunteers I was impressed with right away. No matter the volume of clients or load of work the clinic had her first focus was always providing quality care of each and every patient. Her passion for helping those in need was something I never forgot. She has been one of the people who has inspired me to do the work I have for the community. Being a nurse is not the only thing that makes her a person to know. Here is a glimpse at the life that made her who she is today.

Where were you born?

I was born in Ft. Dodge, Iowa

Tell me about your childhood.

I grew up on a farm around a very small town called Gilmore City, Iowa.  When I was in the 3rd grade my family moved to what is now a Century Farm, meaning it has been in our family’s possession for over 100 years. My brother farms the land now. 

I have an older sister four years older than I, and a younger brother four years younger. My parents are both still living in the same area where I was raised, but are in a nursing home now. I knew both sets of grandparents, two great grandmothers, and aunts/uncles/cousins on both sides of my family. I attended a small school throughout my education, probably 30 or so in the graduating class. Unlike other states Iowa had interscholastic athletics for girls also, so I was involved in softball, basketball and track, the three sports offered. In the summer I “walked beans” the usual job for youth in a farming community. I was also involved in 4-H and its activities such as the girls rotated home furnishings, sewing, and baking. I also showed Angus, Hereford, and black-white face beef at the county fair each year.  

Did/do you have any nicknames?

One of my uncles, who was only seven years older than I, called me ‘Sam’.  There was a man who lived on the edge of our small town who everyone called Russian Sam. He drove a horse and wagon through town collecting garbage. I don’t believe he knew English.  I’m not sure of the connection, but that’s who I got my nickname from. I was born in 1952, an Olympic year and was named after a swimmer and… also because my dad’s name was Zola. I was called Zoe Ann, and never met another person with the same name despite the name’s popularity today. When I went to nursing school everyone called me Zoe and that’s still the case except when I go “home”.

When you were younger what was your dream career?

Like most young girls, I loved horses and living on a farm I was able to keep horses. I wanted to be a jockey, but as I grew, I realized that wasn’t likely!

What sparked your interest in nursing?

I had two aunts who were nurses and they were the influence. I wanted a career where I could help people and at that time a guidance counselor in high school offered the usual options to females…nursing, teaching or being a secretary.

What is your favorite part of being a nurse?

A few years after graduating, I was able to travel around the world and work in several countries as a nurse. 

I haven’t worked in a hospital setting for over 30 years but even today it’s the practical knowledge of realizing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Nursing is such a practical skill in a variety of settings, including raising children.  I enjoy helping people either by education, facilitating further care, or just taking time to listen. 

What is the biggest obstacle a nurse faces?

The volume of working knowledge a nurse must have in today and the ability to adapt to continuous change are greater than when I was in school. This is not only regarding knowledge of diseases but diagnostics and even technology. For example, AIDS had not been “discovered” when I graduated from nursing school.

Outside of volunteering as a nurse, what occupies your time?

My family is my priority. My husband worked hard in the University system so I was able to stay home with our four children. Now I am a busy grandma for our 5 grandchildren!

What community work are you most involved in?  

Champaign County Christian Health Center, CCCHC, is where I volunteer as a nurse. This free clinic services the uninsured. I also work with other organizations when free school physicals are offered for children.

What national event affected you most growing up and why?

When I was in elementary school, the Cuban missile crisis, and JFK’s assassination were both very frightening events.  At the time I didn’t fully understand what was happening or what either meant for the future, but it was a very somber time.

How did you meet your husband? 

We both attended the same church. I was a nurse in ICU/CCU at Burnham City Hospital where one day I called the church to see if there was a deacon available to talk to a patient who was dying. My (future) husband was the one who came and we got to know each other through that sad event!

What do you think is the key to a healthy and long lasting marriage? 

Communication, humor, integrity and knowing the commitment is sacred in God’s eyes!

What do you think you’ll be doing when you’re 75 years old?

God willing, everything I am today!

Favorite summer drink?

Carbonated water, with a lime wedge.

Favorite hobby?

Many, but sewing for my grandkids is most enjoyable.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Honestly, wisdom from the Bible has been my best guide. 

An individual who has inspired you?

I hope I learn, observe and take the best from anyone I meet.

What do you want people to remember about you?

I hope I live up to 
….” do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

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