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Phoebe Sumter employee retires after five decades

Coggins has seen many changes in the workplace since 1964

Yvonne Coggins is retiring at Phoebe Sumter after serving the Americus hospital for five decades. (Special Photo)

Yvonne Coggins is retiring at Phoebe Sumter after serving the Americus hospital for five decades. (Special Photo)

AMERICUS — The year was 1964. Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States and trying to navigate the country through the Vietnam War. Muhammad Ali was then known as Cassius Clay and would defeat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world and a group from across the pond known as the Beatles would make their historic debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Postage stamps were 5 cents, gas was 30 cents a gallon and the average income per year was $6,000.

And, 1964 was also the year Yvonne Goggins, a native of Michigan, moved to South Georgia and took a job at the local hospital in Americus.

“They offered me a job as a switchboard operator (now known as PBX operator) and during those days you had to put the cords in each hole,” said Goggins. “They offered me a starting rate of 50 cents an hour, but I told them that wasn’t enough and they bumped it up to 75 cents.”

Goggins took the job and the rest is history. This week she will conclude her 50th year at the organization, which is now known as Phoebe Sumter Medical Center. During her time she has had various jobs and seen a lot of changes. She was treated to a surprise retirement party recently surrounded by family and coworkers, both old and new.

“I have served a number of jobs during my time here, and we have had a lot of ups and downs,” said Goggins, who has endured a couple of floods and a tornado in March 2007 that destroyed the hospital (then known as Sumter Regional Hospital) and seen the building of a brand new building that opened in December 2011. “I have worked in insurance, data processing, cash posting, charges and now a financial counselor, and I learned so much from the people I have worked with over the years and we have had to adapt to things as times change.”

Goggins said that while she will definitely miss her job, it will be the people she will miss the most.

Goggins will retire knowing she made a difference, and while a lot of things have changed in 50 years, her commitment to her job and to her coworkers have not wavered.

“My coworkers have always been the family I didn’t have when I arrived here from Michigan all those years ago,” said Goggins, who also attended Georgia Southwestern State University when she arrived in the mid 60s. “There were a lot of challenges along the way, but we endured them together like a family. That’s what I am going to miss more than anything, the interaction with people who are just like family to me.”