When she became a widow unexpectedly while raising her youngest son, Jantry, she worked several jobs for a time to make ends meet. She was a cashier at Family Dollar and a cook at First Broad Street United Methodist Church when she made up her mind to go to nursing school. She was already in her 50s at that time.
"I was determined enough to do it," Shupe said.
She started her clinical at Hillside Manor Nursing home and when she graduated nursing school, she quit her job at Family Dollar and, later, retired after 10 years at the church. But she continued working at the nursing home.
"I wanted to devote my time working strictly to nursing. It was so rewarding to me, I didn’t want to quit," Shupe said. "I felt like those people were a part of my family. They were so sweet. If I was gone for a week, on vacation or something, they wanted to know where I’d been. That made me realize I was appreciated. I cherish the memories I have."
Her son Jantry, general manager at Oak Hill Funeral Home and serving his second term on Kingsport’s Board of Mayor and Alderman, said he’s learned a lot from his mother.
"She never saw nursing as a job," he said, "but as a calling and a mission."
His mother confirmed his view.
"You can’t choose a better career," she said. "But you have to care or you don’t need to get into it."
Throughout her life, Shupe wrote about her experiences in journals.
"After I retired at 75," she said, "I sat down and thought, ‘This has been kind of interesting.’"
So she decided to write a book of her memoirs.
Nowadays, she’s receiving the care of home health nurses, which she feels lucky to have, she said. And she wants to pass on her blessings to enable somebody else to go to school, which is where the Northeast State Foundation steps in.
The foundation is offering the Elizabeth Joanne Shupe Endowed Scholarship for single parent nursing students at the Regional Center for Health Professionals in the Kingsport Academic Village.
"The opportunity now is for someone to go as high in nursing as they want to go," Shupe said of the scholarship. "I had a lot of responsibility on me. It’s a battle, single parenting. But I would dearly love to know I helped somebody go to school. The main thing is to get started at it and do it."
On Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m., the Kingsport Center for Higher Education will host a book signing of Shupe’s memoir, "A Sentimental Journey." And throughout the week of Sept. 24-29, during the foundation’s fall campaign "Because Of You," any donations to the Elizabeth Joanne Shupe scholarship will be credited to the nursing program’s total, and the top-funded program can receive up to an additional $5,000.
The Northeast State Community College nursing program is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. The school’s May 2012 graduating class’ first-time pass rate on the National Council Licensing Exam for RNs (NCLEX-RN) was 97.3 percent.
To contribute to the Elizabeth Joanne Shupe Endowed Scholarship, checks should be earmarked for the fund and sent to the following address: Northeast State Community College Foundation, 2425 Hwy. 75, P.O. Box 246, Blountville, TN 37617-0246. Tax ID: 62-1265326. For more information, contact Dr. Melessia D. Webb, Dean of Nursing, at 423-354-5108.
To order a copy of Shupe’s book, visit this site: www.outskirtspress.com/asentimentaljourney. A portion of the proceeds go toward the scholarship.