The Community Medical Clinic (CMC) of Kershaw County remembered and celebrated one of its beloved, long-time volunteers on Tuesday. Jean Pruett was a CMC volunteer for 10 years, and during that time, touched the lives of many people involved with the organization. Along with CMC volunteers and staff, Pruett’s daughter and son-in-law, Pam and Donnie Wilson, and their son Brian were at the celebration.
CMC volunteer coordinator Deb McAbee described Pruett as “a character,” and said, “We just loved her.” McAbee said all patients coming through the clinic would stop and talk to her and share something significant from their lives.
“I never knew someone who knew so many people,” McAbee said. “She said teaching was so rewarding and she’d go back and do it for free if she didn’t have to grade any papers.”
Volunteer Mary Clark said, “Jean was just unique and there will never be another Jean. She was good in every respect. She was the best teacher that Camden High School ever had. When I say she was unique and different and will leave a mark, it will be a very positive mark … we can smile and remember that she was one of a kind, a beautiful one of a kind.”
Christian Community Ministries (CCM) Director Connie Sheorn described Pruett as having “deep and genuine love, loyalty, concern and dedication.” Sheorn discussed how when she began at CCM, she knew it took a while to gain Pruett’s full approval.
“I don’t know the thing, or if there was a specific thing, that bumped her over, but I knew when it occurred. I don’t know what happened to make that change happen, but I knew that it had happened … she really was a person who if she liked you, she liked you and you knew she liked you,” Sheorn said.
Sheorn said she regretted not knowing Pruett for a longer time in her life, saying “I was with her long enough to recognize that this was a deeply dedicated, faithful and loyal person. I was allowed into a certain circle and I was so delighted.” Sheorn fondly remembered that Pruett would bring her columns to read, some that she didn’t intend to publish. “I knew she was letting me into a special place.”
“In one that I was reading, there was a grammatical error. Now, I’m not Miss Perfect, but I happened to catch the grammatical error. I had no qualms telling her because I thought she was just a person, I didn’t know she was an English goddess. I think that was the switch-over,” Sheorn said. “She wasn’t upset at me, not at all, but she had the look of ‘I cannot believe someone would have the gall.’”
Sheorn shared another story about Pruett’s teaching days.
“There was a complaint from the administration and maybe even an attempt to stop (Pruett) from cooking for her students and bringing them food, so she brought some raw meat in one day. It was just to make a statement,” she said.
Donnie Wilson said he hadn’t heard that story about his mother-in-law, but said “I’m not surprised.”
CMC Director Susan Witkowski said she loved the “Jean stories from the early days … she put her foot down that when she stopped teaching she wasn’t going to anymore meetings.”
Witkowski explained Pruett thought meetings were pointless and since she didn’t get anything from the ones she went to at school; she wasn’t going to get anything from meetings held at the clinic.
“Deb and I got her to come to one … she pointed out afterwards she was glad she came. I thought that was like, not getting five points off for a comma splice,” Witkowski said, adding Pruett would help critique and proofread grants.
“It was wonderful. She sat down and we went through … she was proud to know that I knew passive voice. I did have some commas that were wrong,” Witkowski said. “We did get that grant, and it was an important one.” Witkowski also reflected on how patients loved seeing Pruett and how Pruett always shared a story with them, “coming and going.”
Witkowski also said a former volunteer had mailed her an article about Pruett that had run in a Columbia newspaper that discussed how Pruett came to Columbia three times a week to do a weight-lifting class, to which she often brought baked goods.
“In her last days, she had just baked us cupcakes. She had brought us fresh-cut flowers. She’d given us all jam. She had made all her rounds … she gave me strawberry jam for my husband because she knew he loved it,” Witkowski said.
Witkwoski shared a story about Pruett that had been very significant to her.
“On a personal note, I have a sister who has gone through breast cancer and I told Jean this story about how she teaches in the ghetto of upstate New York and it was really rough. My sister had the opportunity to break up a fight and in doing so, a child punched her and it dislodged my sister’s prosthetic device,” she said. “It upset Jean to no end. Her stories and her letters reached Syracuse because she would write them and give to them to me and say, ‘Please send these to your sister.’ It was very consoling to my sister. Jean’s compassion reaches further than Camden.”