A Single Purpose A Life of Service

There are some people who cannot imagine a life without service.

Bea Bortner is one of those people. Her purpose is to be a blessing—to help others. And while her years number more than 80, she continues to be a blessing to everyone her life touches.

Bortner’s story begins in Kealia, Kauai. Her mother was among the first to be baptized on the island and has been a great influence on Bortner throughout her life. “She gave me the desire for education. People didn’t go to college, not people from Kealia, Kauai, anyway,” says Bortner. Yet Bortner did, pursuing a degree in nursing from Walla Walla College.

Over the years, she has served people in many capacities. Whether as a nurse, a surgery supervisor, a mentor or a friend, Bortner’s greatest satisfaction comes from helping people. And although she officially retired from Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) in 1982, Bortner has continued working part time as the supply and equipment assistant in surgery.

Laurie Roosma, WWGH women's services and nursing resources director, was supervised and mentored by Bortner when she first started her career at the hospital. “She has always been compassionate, loyal, values-driven and a progressive leader. Her strong spirituality exudes in everything she does. She’s always looking for ways to help and be of service….She looks for the potential in others and gives opportunity to develop that potential.”

The spiritual side of health care was an integral part of Bortner’s work and demonstrated itself in morning worship and prayer. “You’d have to hear her prayers to understand how beautiful and sincere they are,” says Roosma, who recalls the time a surgeon overheard Bortner’s prayer and was impressed to know that someone was praying for each patient facing surgery. The surgeon came to believe that his patients recovered faster when they were at WWGH and eventually sent most of his patients there. In time, he even began praying with his own patients. “He came to truly believe in prayer,” says Roosma, “as a result of the witness of our worship.”

Some have said that Bortner is a living model of the mission of WWGH. Randy Cardwell, surgical services director, says this about her: “She is always helping in some way, both at work and outside of work. She has a genuine caring for others and a Christ-centered spirit.”

And he isn’t alone in his observations. “Everyday that Bea is here, she has a smile on her face,” says Roosma. “If I were to pick the perfect person to exemplify our mission, it would be Bea. She has dedicated her life to service.”

In spite of the praise people have given her and awards she has received, Bea Bortner believes it is all part of being a Christian at work. “I love the work that I do," she says. "I haven’t accomplished any great thing. I’ve only done my work daily.”

And perhaps that humility is the key to fulfilling the mission to do as Christ did—to be sustained by the heavenly Father, to do each and every task well, to genuinely care about people, and to see each act of service as being no more extraordinary than breathing.

August 01, 2004 / Adventist Health
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Katie Torkelsen was a writer with CMBell Company when she wrote this feature.