Monday, October 30, 2017
Liberty, NY – Sullivan County officials joined the staff of Public Health Services today to officially dedicate the Gladys Olmsted Sullivan County Public Health Services Building.
The recognition comes after the County Legislature passed a resolution honoring Olmsted, a pioneering nurse and former Public Health Services director who passed away in 1997. The efforts of the Sullivan County Historical Society were instrumental in that effort.
“This is a great honor to name this building for a person who did so much for Sullivan County, who dedicated herself so much to Sullivan County,” Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez told a crowd gathered inside that very building.
Born in Orange County, Olmsted came to Sullivan early in her career as a nurse, working out of an office in the dirt-floor basement of the Sullivan County Courthouse in the 1950s. She ultimately became the director of what was then called the Sullivan County Department of Public Health Nursing, leading it through many changes, much growth and numerous improvements – even designing the building which now bears her name, though she retired in 1987 prior to its opening (then known as the Shared Clinic Facility).
“Her dream was always to have a ‘real’ clinic,” recalled Olmsted’s successor, retired Public Health Services Director Dyan Campbell, who worked with Olmsted in the ‘70s and ‘80s and admired her legendary ability to get things done. “She was the consummate politician. When she went to the Board of Supervisors and started out with her thing on ‘the mommies and the babies,’ they were just putty. She was amazing, because they trusted her, because she earned their trust. She had the highest integrity. She taught them about prevention and investment in the future.”
“She truly made a difference in the lives of others and in the health of residents in this county. It is fitting that this building be named after such a determined, talented and compassionate woman,” affirmed current Public Health Services Director Nancy McGraw. “While the range of services and programs in Public Health have changed over the years, the mission has remained largely the same: to care for those who are most vulnerable, to identify and plan to address pressing health issues and to advocate for resources to ensure a healthier population.”
“She worked tirelessly to care for her friends and neighbors,” said Debi Levine, speaking on behalf of Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, herself a nurse. “She revolutionized the way we think about public health in Sullivan County. She started programs to help improve prenatal care, orthopedic care, access to immunizations, tuberculosis clinics and much more. Gladys Olmsted was truly a pioneer, and no one is more deserving of this honor.”
“Those of us who work here come each day and feel that kindred spirit of those who came before us,” acknowledged Deputy Commissioner of Health and Family Services William Moon.
Several of Olmsted’s relatives also attended the ceremony, sharing a softer, more hidden side of the no-nonsense leader.
“Gladdie was more than an aunt, she was like a second mother to me. She was a sweetheart,” recalled Olmsted’s nephew, New Jersey optometrist Eric Robinson. “… She just brought life to her whole community.”