Phyllis Qualheim, an active volunteer and supporter of Grace Clinic, turned 90 recently and residents of Parkwood and members of Grace Clinic got together to celebrate her accomplishments and perseverance.
“She’s one of our jewels here at Parkwood,” said Donna Lofman of Parkwood. “She participates in a lot of our activities. She’s a good resident. When my sister-in-law was sick, she was the person who helped my brother find out how to get the medicine she needed. She cares about the community. She’s something else, a one in a million.”
Several members of Grace Clinic came up to give speeches dedicated to Qualheim and her love and support for the community. After the speeches, everybody got to enjoy a slice of cake with some punch.
“I would like to thank everyone for coming today to honor Phyllis,” said Grace Clinic Chairman Steve Newman. “She is a great woman. She’s been my hero for a long long time and I tell her that quite frequently.”
“We are here to honor Phyllis Qualheim and I would like to thank everyone for coming because Phyllis Qualheim is 90 years old,” said Dr. Steve Erlandson, medical director at Grace Clinic. “I’ve known Phyllis for 37 years and I’ve seen her in action for 37 years. She is a great American hero and a light and a guide to young and old alike. She’s a great friend of my family and children but what you don’t now is that she’s a comedian and she can crack some really funny jokes. She’s a very positive person and I think that’s the key to her success. Her life has not always been a bed of roses. Seriously, if she gets a bag of lemons, she makes lemonade and it’s really good lemonade. I’ve had some. If she goes to the store and gets some apples and they’re kind of squishy, she’ll make it apple pie.”
Qualheim has faced a lot of challenges during her life. She is a mother, is a cancer survivor, a nurse and volunteer, a singer, and was a board member of the Grace Clinic. She is also a spiritual person, participating in Sunday school, Bible study, and church choirs.
“A lot of people don’t make it to 90,” said Dr. Erlandson. “Being a physician, there’s lots of things we talk about such as cholesterol, diet, and a plethora of other factors. But with Phyllis, she’s physically active; walking, exercising, and swimming is always good. There’s nothing wrong with sitting down and reading a good book but it’s always good to be active. She has a positive mental attitude. She gets bad news, she thinks ‘I can make something good out of that.’ She’s always looking up, not looking down. She is engaged and by engaged to the community. I’ll ask her ‘what’s going on over there’ and she’ll give me a long story about what’s going on and it’s true.
“She owes her great health to a great attitude. She sings quite well but there’s one song that Phyllis has never sung,” said Earlandson. “She does not sing that song ‘All about Me.’ She doesn’t sing that song, she sings Do Re Mi. She puts others before herself.”
Last year, Grace Clinic, a free clinic in Elkin, helped the patients get more than $1 million worth of medications. The clinic has about 455 patients for 2,000 visits a year. Most of these patients are employed and work low-wage, minimum wage jobs without benefits and health insurance.
Officials there said Qualheim has been integral with helping the Grace Clinic, helping supply people with medication. She has been a long term member of the board and a financial supporter and has run for many years as a prescription assistant. She’s helped people get their insulin, their blood thinner, their blood pressure pills, and their heart medicine.
Those who know her say Qualheim’s is fiercely dedicated to Grace Clinic. During one instance, two days after Christmas, she was with her family in Raleigh leaving church. The curb wasn’t level and she tripped, fell, and broke her pelvis. Six weeks later, she was back at Grace Clinic volunteering after going through therapy and was back to work giving people the medicine they needed.
Qualheim’s dedication to Grace Clinic comes from her love of helping people and bringing them hope.
“It’s not obligation but I just feel that having been blessed, and I just want to spread that blessing around to some other people,” she said.
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.