It is about 5:30 a.m., an early weekday morning. While most of the Mount Union campus is still snug tight in their nice warm beds, Virginia Gaines is headed to work at the MAAC.
Virginia Gaines is a longtime member of the Mount Union staff, working here for the past 24 years as the part-time MAAC receptionist.
She works from 6 a.m. until 12 p.m. “I started off at Timken as a housekeeper,” said Virginia, “and then when my husband passed away with ALS they called and asked me if I wanted to come back and do this.”
According to Google Health, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is “a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.”
The progression of ALS leads to nerve cells dying and the loss of muscle control. Eventually, muscles in the chest stop working, making it impossible to breathe.
Virginia spoke of her husband’s condition briefly, saying that, “I never dreamed I would meet anyone that had ALS.”
Her husband was her best friend for 46 wonderful years. “We did everything together,” she said, smiling. “Grocery shop…just everything. He worked and I worked. He’d come home and we went out to eat. We did everything together.”
Caught in the memory of him, Virginia said that, “Every day was a good day.” She told a story of her husband bringing her lunch. Even though ALS made it difficult for him to walk, he insisted on this little chivalrous gesture. “He wanted to make sure I ate my lunch!”
When she’s not working early hours in the MAAC, she enjoys spending time with her large family playing Texas hold’em, a gambling game. Christmas Eve, though, is definitely her favorite event with them. “We just talk, catch up with each other, and have fun,” she said. “We go to church first and then meet at my sister-in laws.”
A farm girl at heart, Virginia has lived in the North Benton, Ohio area all her life. She loved growing up on a farm. “We played games that these kids have never heard of,” she began as she described her wonderful childhood. “Games like Kick the Can, they don’t even know what that is.” Kick the Can is a game where the participants literally kick a can and then hide. Whoever doesn’t get back to the base is it. “And we played Handy, Handy, Over. Kids throw the ball over the house. If they catch it, they come in and tag you.” She added with a laugh that, “The old people know all of these games…this is really telling my age.”
She is enjoying her life now just as much as she enjoyed her past. “Mount Union has been so good to me,” she said fondly. “It really has.” Being with the school for so long, Virginia considers it her second home. Her role is to monitor the guests and make sure that they are actually allowed to use the facilities. She does not like having to kick people out of the MAAC, but it happens more often than not. Her favorite part of the job is seeing the students and people that work in the building.
The interview was going along fine when a thud that sounds like the anger of the gods from Mount Olympus sounded through the MAAC. “The really big thuds do scare me,” Virginia commented. All her years of working in the fitness facility, she has had only one injury. “It was one of the chest machines here on the first floor. It just gave out,” she told. “But that’s about it.”
Virginia Gaines is proud to be a staff member of Mount Union. “I love Mount Union,” she said with a big smile. “They saved my life.”