Zemlock has been pillar of VVH | PostIndependent.com

Zemlock has been pillar of VVH

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson Ruth Zemlock was a volunteer at Valley View Hospital for 25 years, logging in approximately 17,000 hours before retiring a year ago.

Over the years, Ruth Zemlock has helped build the very foundations of Valley View Hospital.First she was part of a family-owned sand and gravel company that served the ever-expanding facility along with other customers in the growing Glenwood Springs area.”We furnished the material for a lot of places here – that includes the hospital,” Zemlock said.Then, after retiring, she became part of the human infrastructure that’s so essential to serving Valley View’s patients.As the hospital has expanded brick by brick over the years, Zemlock helped build its customer service hour by hour, eventually donating 17,000 hours as a volunteer over some two decades.Though she never went to medical school, she also earned a well-deserved title: “Dr. Ruth.””She acquired her moniker ‘Dr. Ruth’ by pitching in, holding hands, solving problems and bringing joy to many people in their most vulnerable moments,” Valley View said in a recent Post Independent advertisement honoring Zemlock, who has had to bring an end to her service to patients at the hospital due to some recent health problems of her own.The hospital added in its tribute to Zemlock, “Her unique brand of Western grit, throaty laughter and unfailing common sense … earned her the deep affection and gratitude of co-workers, patients and families.”Zemlock, 88, is every bit a product of the West. She told her story in the Glenwood Springs home she has lived in since the 1960s. Her father was a sheepman from Scotland who ran sheep in Ogden, Utah, where she was born. Zemlock’s mother was from England. Her parents first met on a boat returning to Europe, and then coincidentally again on another heading to America.

Zemlock is the brother of Bill Dodds-Scott, well-known locally for his involvement with the Boy Scouts.Their parents moved from Ogden to Rifle, where her father ranched. They later lived in Old Snowmass, but because there were no accredited high schools up-valley Zemlock boarded in Glenwood Springs and went to school there. She lived with the manager of the JC Penney store, which at that time was located on Grand Avenue.She met her future husband, Andy Zemlock, while in Glenwood Springs. He was one of five children, and his father was a miner in South Canyon who moved the family to town after the mines closed there. The Zemlocks married in 1935, and together ran what became Zemlock & Son Sand and Gravel. Their son, Martin, worked for the company. He also was heavily involved in the Glenwood Springs Fire Department and is now retired and still living in town. Ruth and Andy Zemlock also had a daughter who married and moved out of state.The Zemlocks operated sand and gravel pits in Dotsero, and later south of Glenwood Springs.”We had a big crew. For a man who only went to the eighth grade, he had a brain,” she said of her husband.In the early years the Zemlocks also would haul coal, sometimes driving to Meeker to pick it up, braving winter conditions and more primitive roads.”There was many a time they’d leave here early in the morning and they wouldn’t get back until the next day sometime,” Zemlock said.Zemlock kept busy with tasks such as doing the books for the business, going house to house making collections, and operating the truck scale.

After the Zemlocks’ hard work over the years, they didn’t get to enjoy retirement together because he succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease while they still were running their business.Looking to keep busy in retirement, she joined the hospital auxiliary at the suggestion of a friend who volunteered at Valley View.Zemlock worked at the front desk, helping people get around the hospital and doing book work. She also helped with patients in day surgery.One of Zemlock’s more memorable moments at the hospital occurred shortly after she started.”This man came in. He asked for somebody, and I said, ‘Well, where does he work?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m just not sure.'”She showed him to an office.”He shut the door and pulled a gun on us. That was an experience. He asked for some papers. Well, he just picked them up – the guy just walked out.”Zemlock said the gunman, who wasn’t from the area, was caught south of town. She doesn’t remember hearing what papers he had been so interested in.Most of Zemlock’s experiences were far more positive. She misses the people she worked with and served. She particularly liked tending to children.

“Little kids, they’re scared when they come in. That was one of the things, if you could kind of help out, it certainly helped the mothers out.”Zemlock decided it was time to end her time as a volunteer after suffering some fainting spells. But she remains in generally good health, and enjoys reading, sewing and gardening.Zemlock was honored repeatedly for her work at Valley View. She received a 9Who Care award from Channel 9 in Denver, two congressional proclamations from Glenwood native and former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, and a Garfield County/Post Independent Humanitarian Service Award.Maybe her biggest honor was getting the nickname of “Dr. Ruth.””One of the patients did that. It was when I was working up in day surgery. … I took this person up to the upper part where the rooms are, and this patient called me Dr. Ruth. It stuck.”Today, as Valley View continues to grow, Zemlock admits to needing someone herself to get around the hospital, as she experienced when she last stopped by.”When I got in there I said ‘Will someone show me where to go?’ and they just got a big bang out of that,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

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