Couple married for 55 years keeps relationship strong through vo - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Couple married for 55 years keeps relationship strong through volunteering

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DULUTH, MN -

Volunteering--like charity, or just being a good person--isn't limited to the holidays.

As one Duluth couple proves, it takes more than just physical strength to be a good volunteer.

KBJR 6's Michelle Alfini introduces us to two volunteers who've made caring for each other a priority, so they can pass it on to others.

"This is the Fairview waiting room, this is Al speaking," says a now familiar voice at Essentia St. Mary's hospital in Duluth.

For more than 16 years Al and Ginny Katz have been a constant.

"We started out volunteering in the emergency room," says Ginny, "and we did that for 10 years and that was...interesting." 

From there they moved to the family waiting room, where the two say they've found a fit for their strengths.

"When they're in there for a heart procedure, or they're in there because the ambulance just dropped them," explains Al, "and they're trying to figure out how to keep the family member alive, they're very shaken."

Sometimes it's as simple as saying the right thing.

"I always say, 'the doctor wants to make a report,'" explains Al, "not "the doctor wants to talk to you, because that scares them."

"That scares the liver out of them if you do that," adds Ginny.

But it's more than speaking, says Al. It's also listening to them. That's how Al and Ginny say they've learned to coach patients and family through their worst moments--a tall order for anyone, but patients aren't Al and Ginny's only concerns.

"I've got glaucoma," says Al, "and my vision in this past year has deteriorated severely, so now I answer the phone and I talk to people, but she does the reading."

"I temporarily have surgery on my foot," explains Ginny, "but I hobble around very nicely."

They're walking these halls as more than just volunteers.

"Working in the ER we learned an awful lot about wheelchairs," says Ginny, as Al pushes an empty wheelchair next to her, "there you go," adds Ginny as Al maneuvers the wheelchair around a corner, "see, isn't that easier?"

And they're caring for each other as much as anyone else.

"We're 79, we're pushing 80 real fast," says Ginny, "and so we do things a little more slowly than we used to, but that doesn't mean we can't communicate with people, we certainly can."

Because the former professors, it's simply flexing the muscle they've trained their entire lives.

"Literally in the communication department we both taught listening," says Al.\

And while they may not know how much more work is in their future, "we hope to keep on doing it for another 15, 20 years," laughs Ginny.

Ginny and Al don't yet see an end in sight.

"You don't have to be able to run a four minute mile to be able to volunteer," says Ginny.

"I'm not nearly as strong as I was, and I'm not nearly as quick as I was, but my mind is doing okay and as long as I'm mentally able," says Al. "As long as I can sit in a chair and pick up a telephone. We can work."

On top of volunteering for nearly 17 years, Al and Ginny Katz have been married for 55. 

They say finding something meaningful to do in their retirement is the key to their successful marriage.

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