MARSTON - Don't expect to find Inez Baldwin at home.
Look first at Beverly Healthcare in New Madrid. Check the church. Or maybe even City Hall.
At 85 years young, Baldwin is constantly on the go. Her involvement earned her the title of Volunteer of the Year by the Missouri Healthcare Association District 5.
She is busy all the time, said Shirley Payne, activity director at Beverly Healthcare, which nominated Baldwin for the District honor.
"She is a tiny lady with a great big talent and a great big heart," wrote Payne in her nomination letter. "Ms. Inez always enters the facility like a ray of sunshine, dressed in pretty bright colors."
At the nursing home in New Madrid, Baldwin is typically found at the piano. Her repertoire of music is wide ranging, from songs the oldest residents sang as children to the boogie woogie sounds of the 1940s to more recent hits their grandchildren can join in to sing.
Playing for a nursing home crowd is a challenge said Payne. "Not only do her listeners want to sing songs they are familiar with, many have hearing problems. She can play loud enough so they can hear it and they just love it," said Payne. And she can play anything. The residents have never requested a song that she could not play.
It is her musical talent which is responsible for keeping Baldwin on the go much of the time. In the past she played for the Portageville Nursing Center as well as for the residents of Sells Nursing Home in Matthews. She is the pianist for her church, organist for the New Madrid and Portageville Chapters of the Eastern Star and is often called upon to entertain for various class reunions and dinner meetings.
Baldwin explained she came from a musical family, learning to play the piano at age 3. "I just love to play," she continued. "It gives me a lift and they seem to enjoy it at the nursing home. They keep time with their fingers on the table, pat their feet or lift their shoulders. It just tickles me to death to see them enjoy themselves."
Volunteering is a way of life for Baldwin. Although she worked some as a teacher's aide, she preferred her volunteer work. With three daughters, three sons and a stepdaughter, there were lots of jobs to volunteer for as they were growing up.
Now that her children have grown and "scattered" across the country, the doting grandmother adds with a bit of pride she often enjoys attending performances and special events involving her 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Then there is also her work as vice president of the Civic Improvement Club, which strives for the betterment of her hometown of Marston. Also nearly every Sunday morning, the members of her United Methodist Church are greeted by Baldwin, who has cooked them a breakfast of biscuits and gravy.
A graduate of the Marston School System and an avowed booster for the community, Baldwin took over the duties as Marston Day coordinator in 1988. Every June she sends out letters to former Marston residents urging them to "come back home on the upcoming Labor weekend.
"People always enjoy it. The smallest crowd we've ever had was 129 and the largest crowd was 189. Some people forget to sign the register, so I usually take the book around the crowd and ask if they have signed," said Baldwin.
Each week the Portageville and New Madrid newspapers feature her column detailing the activities of the residents of Marston and the surrounding areas.
"I just love to be among people. I just love being out," said Baldwin trying to explain why she stays so busy. "Also she fills her days with shopping, visiting friends, eating out and I do a lot of talking on the phone ... I'm always busy."
She attributes her ability to be active to her good health. She exercises daily and watches what she eats.
Another of her secrets is her attitude. "I look on the bright side of life."
And Baldwin has no plans of giving up her active lifestyle anytime soon. "I'm 85 years old and I'm proud of it. I'm working on a hundred."