KAPAA — Myra Ornellas said Monday was Leap Day and another day added before her retirement takes effect.
“We were going to retire at the end of the month,” Ornellas said. “If it was not Leap Year, that would have been Friday. But this is just another day added before we retire.”
Ornellas and Jaime Panoy of the hospital’s housekeeping department celebrated their retirement before the residents and staff Monday, enjoying a respite from their normal duties.
Combined, the pair put in more than half a century of service, Ornellas retiring after nearly 35 years and Panoy after nearly 24 years of service to the Mahelona Hospital.
“I started when my mother-in-law was working here,” Panoy said. “But she only stayed five years. I’ve always been in housekeeping, and the best part of my job was the experience of meeting and working with everyone.”
Melody Pascual, a resident at the hospital, clung to Myra’s arm as the administrator made her way to greet the residents on her final day of work.
“They’re special,” Ornellas said. “They each have stories, and when you find out about those stories, you truly get connected to the community.”
Ornellas remembers when she was hired right out of nursing school.
“A group of us were planning on attending nursing school for our licensed practical nurse credentials at the Kauai Community College,” she said. “But two weeks before the class was supposed to start, they said they weren’t going to offer the class. Luckily, Hilo and Kapiolani Community College had room for us. I had just gotten married in February and had to go off-island for my LPN.”
She remembers Sheila Ventura hiring her when all she had was a temporary license.
“I was coming home with my LPN credentials,” Ornellas said. “Sheila hired me even if the only thing I had was a temporary license. This is where it all started, and I never left except for a sabbatical. This was all opportunity.”
She said she took her sabbatical after the state offered to upgrade the nurses by offering them an opportunity to become registered nurses.
“I went back to work right after Hurricane Iniki as an RN,” Ornellas said. “The hurricane struck on Sept. 11, and on Oct. 1 I started as an RN.”
Ornellas said she’ll still be helping Betty Matsumura of the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary plan for the 100th anniversary of the hospital next year.