106-year-old retired black nurse to be honored by KentuckyOne He - WDRB 41 Louisville News

106-year-old retired black nurse to be honored by KentuckyOne Health

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- From the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, a 106-year old retired Louisville nurse provided healthcare throughout some of America's important historical events.

Her name is Willie Glass, and her service and employment also became an important part of Kentucky history.

Born in 1910, two years after Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion of the world, Glass would soon break her own color barrier.

"She graduated from nursing school in 1936," said her son, Reginald Glass.

After graduating from historically black Prairie View A&M with a degree in Nursing, Glass would eventually move to Louisville and become the first black nurse hired by Jewish Hospital.

"They still delivered babies at Jewish at that point," Reginald Glass said.

And it was in Obstetrics that Glass found her true calling, but not everyone was colorblind.

"I was telling the aide a while ago about the nurse spitting in my face," Willie Glass said.

At 106-years-old, Ms. Glass has some limitations recounting the past, but she does remember some of the obstacles she faced being the first.

"She was afraid I was going to drop the baby or something," Willie Glass said.

By then, it was the 1950s, and the civil rights movement was just getting started. Willie Glass was a regular in the delivery room.

"She was just so kind, she actually held my hand," said Phyllis McDonald, a former patient.

After nearly 40 years, Willie Glass retired in the early '70s.

"Her goal was to be able to send me to college," Reginald Glass said.

Reginald Glass is a long-time local television and radio personality and executive and said his father was an educator. His parents' goal was to pay his way through college.

"She worked until I graduated from Western Kentucky in 1973."

On Monday, KentuckyOne Health and the Black Nurses association will present Willie Glass with an award named in her honor.

"I think it's well deserved and long overdue," Reginald Glass said.

And even if it is more than 80 years after her career started, Reginald Glass appreciates his mother getting the credit she deserves. "Too often we forget ... the little people who opened the door," he said.

These days, Willie Glass resides at the historic Masonic Homes of Kentucky. Reginald Glass frequently visits his mother there, but he's not the only one who enjoys her company.

In the last few years, she has become a favorite with the staff and other resident.

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