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A ‘Major’ Presence at Gifford

Randolph — Melvin McLaughlin hasn’t worked a paying job since 1967, when he retired as a major with 25 years of active duty in the Marine Corps.

How has he kept himself occupied all those years? In the company of his wife, Florence (who died three years ago after 66 years of marriage), McLaughlin built a house, started a congregation of Southern Baptists in his living room, traveled the world, and volunteered at Gifford Medical Center, where he still volunteers today, at the age of 95.

One way or another, McLaughlin said, his life has been one of giving rather than taking, whether serving in the Marines or taking meal orders from patients at the hospital. Asked why he didn’t seek paid employment after he retired when he was only 49, McLaughlin said, “I’m not a double- or triple-dipper.” He prefers to think of himself as a double- or triple-giver.

According to Robin Palmer, a communications specialist in the marketing department at Gifford, McLaughlin’s giving consists of coming to the hospital seven days a week and visiting with people — patients, doctors, custodians — in virtually every department of the facility. Palmer, who has nominated McLaughlin for a service award, said McLaughlin asks everyone he meets the same question: “Has anyone told you today that they love you?” If the answer happens to be no, McLaughlin has a standard comeback. “Well, God loves you and so do I.”

Chatting with McLaughlin, one doubts he is waiting for an award to confirm the value of his work at Gifford Medical Center. “I’m just blessed. Period,” he said. And for all his giving, McLaughlin takes a divine perspective on his efforts.

“God is good,” he said. “And you can’t outgive God.”

Editor’s Note: People interested in volunteering at Gifford Medical Center should visit www.giffordmed.org/volunteering.