Long time nurse, volunteer and area resident Elizabeth “Sue” Dunlap, 71, of Richville, has been serving the Perham area over the course of her lifetime.
“I was born here in Perham in 1949 on December 21, and I grew up in Richville,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap said when she was growing up in Richville, just 7 miles outside of Perham, the population was about 100 people and she attended school in Richville’s one-room schoolhouse until the sixth grade.
“My dad was a beekeeper, so I worked with him growing up in the bee yard and the honey house extracting honey,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap said growing up she was involved in 4-H and the Methodist Youth Fellowship. “We had a combined group for Dent and Richville,” she said.
After graduating from Perham High School in 1967 Dunlap attended vocational school in Detroit Lakes where she became a licensed practical nurse. She said she worked as an LPN for 20 years before going back to school to become a Registered Nurse in 1987.
“I started out working in Detroit Lakes, where I graduated from. I worked in the nursery there and then from there a girl friend and I both moved to Florida and worked in Daytona Beach,” Dunlap said. During the two years she worked in a small hospital, “the doctors there taught me how to be with ladies in labor and help deliver babies,” she said.
After her two years in Daytona Beach Dunlap said she returned to Perham to work in the hospital before returning to Daytona Beach. “Florida just drew me there,” she said.
After working in Daytona the second time Dunlap went to work in a teaching hospital in Orlando. Dunlap said she mainly worked with newborns and postpartum mothers but was floated to a lot of other departments as well.
Dunlap said while working in Orlando she met her husband Danny Dunlap. She said they were married in Perham in 1975 and returned to Florida after being married.” He’s from Tennessee but we moved back here in ‘76 and I told him that if he didn’t like it after a year we’d moved back to Florida,” she said.
“I went back to school because I had been doing labor and diversity and that’s what I really liked with nursing. The reason I went into nursing is because I wanted to take care of babies,” Dunlap said. Because LPNs could no longer work in labor and delivery, Dunlap decided to go back to school after 20 years to get her associate’s degree at Fergus Falls Community and Technical College and become an RN.
Dunlap said while going to school for her RN she worked full time and raised her two daughters.
After she finished school, Dunlap continued to work in labor and delivery as well as in the emergency room, surgery, and chemotherapy. She said she also was at the Perham Hospital when they made the move from the old hospital to the new one.
“I also went on and became a parish nurse,” Dunlap said. She has been the parish nurse at Richville United Methodist Church for the past 10 years. She spent a week at Concordia College and stayed in the dorm to complete that training.
“That was interesting but it was very fulfilling,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap retired from full-time nursing about seven years ago, however, she still works at Thomas House, a Perham senior care facility, and spends her time volunteering.
Dunlap spends her time volunteering with Meals on Wheels delivering meals in Perham, with Perham Health’s Relay for Life Team, and with the Methodist Church in Richville.
Dunlap has been involved with Relay for Life since back when she was working at the hospital in Perham. Dunlap said she was the chairperson for Relay for Life for 15 years and "one year we actually made $10,000," she said.
Dunlap has organized multiple fundraising events over the years. “I think the best one is my spaghetti supper,” she said. This year the spaghetti supper that she would hold to help the church raise funds was unable to take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the pandemic has not stopped her from working to help fundraise for the church.
“This year we’ve done apple and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, that was successful, and now we’re doing chocolate dipped strawberries for Valentine’s Day. I use to do that with Relay for Life at the hospital but because of COVID we weren’t able to do it at the hospital this year so I’m doing it at the church,” Dunlap said.