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Myrtle Bisping: At 91, she's still going strong


"Myrtle, you've just got to slow down."

The words from her doctor sent a shudder through the tiny, gray-haired woman. "I remember thinking, 'Oh dear, what am I going to give up?"'

But today, a few years later and just hours past her 91st birthday, Myrtle Bisping, the Clarksburg newspapers' Citizen of the Year, could possibly give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. Make no doubt about it, she's still going.

"Back then, I was doing a number of things, one of which was working as a volunteer at the hospital. But I DID give that up and just settled for doing my church work, Altrusa Club and Meals on Wheels," she says.

"Just settled." A typically modest response from Bisping, who admits to being "a little embarrassed" by all the publicity surrounding her nomination as Citizen of the Year.

By all accounts, the diminutive Bisping seems able to run rings around women half her age.

"That gal has been a tremendous figure in this county and she's not one to go and sing her own praises," says Eleanor Blair, former head of the Red Cross here and a Bisping family friend.

"She delivers Meals on Wheels one day a week, and to do that, she gets in and out of a car 19 or 20 times and climbs hundreds of steps," Blair says. "Remember, she's 91 years old! But she does it in order to bring a hot meal to people who may not get one otherwise.

"I've done 'Meals' with her, and believe me, those containers are somewhat heavy and they're hot, but there she goes, up and down those steps. It simply amazes me."

Bisping has been involved with Meals on Wheels since its start here 25 years ago and served as its second president. She confesses it's her "first love right now."

"I so much enjoy visiting with each one of the people," she says. "I don't just take the meal, leave d walk out. I like to spend some time with them. I like to do something that might make them feel good that day. The people are so appreciative, they're so precious. It's just a joy to work for them."

According to Mary K. Spelsberg, president of the Harrison County Meals on Wheels, the feeling is mutual.

"We've gotten a lot of feedback from the people on her route," Spelsberg says. "They really look forward to her showing up. She always tries to have something nice to say to them.

"She has such a positive outlook and so much energy. I mean, here she is, at 91, and she's out there delivering these meals. At least half the clients are younger than she is."

Brenda Anselene met Bisping about 10 years ago through the Altrusa Club and says the woman never ceases to amaze her.

"'Altruistic' is a good word to describe her," says Anselene, a Harrison County magistrate. "She's just the sweetest, most unselfish person. She's such a day-brightener. If you're blue, she can bring you right out if it.

"If you ever met her, you probably wouldn't forget her. She's one of the most optimistic people. I think I'm a much better person for having known her and been around her. I hope some of her optimism has rubbed off on me.

"But it's her energy that's really incredible. At her age, nobody really expects a person to be volunteering; they expect them to be the ones getting assisted. But that's not the case with Myrtle Bisping."

In addition to her work with Meals on Wheels, she's still extremely active both in church and club volunteerism.

"She's been a member of the Stealey United Methodist Church for 52 years and she has worked tirelessly in that area," Blair says.

Bisping sets aside one night of the week to work with the church's Tuesday Club, making comforters for needy families. Besides serving as a past treasurer of the Methodist Women, she is also on the Church Council, the official decision-making board, and is a communion chairman.

"We make soup and deliver it to shut-ins. I love doing that, taking it to people who aren't well h or strong enough to do it for themselves," she says.

In the meantime, she uses her knitting skills to make dishcloths for a convalescent center gift shop and booties for layettes at The Mustard Seed.

Bisping is a charter member of the Altrusa Club and has been an active member of its Diabetic Assistance program for a number of years.

"I had a sister who died from diabetic complications," she says. "It's important to me to help others who have it. Early detection can mean a much better chance of surviving and maybe I can help spread that information."

It's apparent that "family" is extremely important to this nominee, with much of her conversation sprinkled with references to her three children or 10 grandchildren.

But it's no secret that it was her husband, the late Franklin "Spike" Bisping, who had the greatest effect on her life. And it is he whom she credits with sparking much of her interest in volunteer work.

"My husband was always helping somebody," she says. "He was a Rotarian and did a lot of work for crippled children. One of my favorite memories is of Christmases past when he would bring presents home for those children and we would wrap them up.

"He's the one who urged me to join Altrusa when it organized in Clarksburg nearly 30 years ago. I remember him saying, 'Myrtle, I think you would like it if it's anything like Rotary. You ought to give it a try,' so I did, and I don't regret a minute of it."

The Bispings moved to the area from Chicago more than 50 years ago.

"My husband was in the construction business and we were sent to West Virginia to build a Pittsburgh Plate Glass plant," she recalls.

"We fell in love with the hills here and didn't want to leave, so Franklin decided to start his own company, Permanent Builders Inc., and I was his bookkeeper. That was over 50 years ago; Clarksburg has been our home ever since."

And throughout those years, Bisping's tireless volunteer work has led her to become a familiar and welcome sight around town.

People may recognize her her 25 years of volunteering with the Girl Scouts, or her 10 years as a volunteer bookkeeper with the Red Cross. Or at The Mustard Seed.

They might recall her as the smiling face behind the luncheon counter at United Hospital Center, the auxiliary of which she helped organize.

Or it could, of course, be through Meals on Wheels, Altrusa Club or church.

Where does she get all her energy?

"I suppose I have enough to do the things I want to do," she says. "I don't think I would waste time doing something that I'm not happy doing. And I think I keep a positive outlook and that helps.

"I have a full life. I'm fairly healthy. I walk a mile each day, work in the garden, knit. I still drive and I come and go as I please. I'm my own boss.

"At my age, most people just sit and rock. I can't imagine doing that. I really enjoy my volunteer work. Besides, I like to be where the people are."


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