MARQUETTE - Barb Dupras knows what's she's going to miss most when she retires Friday from her post as a social worker at the Marquette Senior Center.
"Their stories," she said. "Learning about their life experiences. I am so grateful the seniors have shared their life stories with me through the years."
Dupras has been a social worker at the Marquette center for more than a decade. It was the last stop on a career filled with interesting challenges.
Social worker Barb Dupras will retire Friday from the Marquette Senior Center. Dupras said she will look back fondly on her experiences working with senior citizens. Above, she is seen working at the center with a senior citizen. Below, she is pictured alone. (Journal photos by Renee Prusi)
Born and raised in Wyandotte, which is near Detroit, Dupras at first went to college at Wayne State University. But she soon transferred to Northern Michigan University.
"I have been up here ever since," Dupras said. "This is my home now."
After graduating from NMU in 1977 with a degree in social work, Dupras held several other jobs early in her career.
"Because I had a family and was raising kids, I worked as a unit clerk in the hospital, then at Pathways," she said. "That job was where I first started using my case management training. I worked in some group homes and that was a challenging thing, but rewarding as well."
In 2000, she began work at the Marquette Senior Center.
"That was a whole different population to work with," she said. "I wasn't sure how it was going to be. But once I started working with the seniors, I found it to be absolutely wonderful.
"The stories these seniors tell are priceless," Dupras said. "I really learned to love the senior population. Their perspectives are totally different. Their experiences make you look at the world differently."
Dupras recalled setting up a class called "Life Adjustments" along with fellow center social worker Vickie Bullock.
"We would meet once a week for three weeks every other month," Dupras said. "It was a class about how seniors cope with changes. We had women and men in their 80s and 90s, some of whom grew up in Marquette and lived here their whole lives.
"I asked them a question: 'What is the one thing you have now that you really appreciate most that you didn't have as a child?'," she said. "They sat quietly and really thought about it. I was thinking they would say 'TV' or 'a car.' Then one of them, speaking very slowly and deliberately, said 'I really love running water.'
"That was her life, growing up on a farm. It was just the way it was, no running water," Dupras said. "When they complain, we have to remember we didn't know what it is they have been through. Their stories give me such a bigger view of things."
Another story that will always stay with Dupras came from a woman reminiscing about days gone by.
"One of the ladies was in her 90s and she grew up in Marquette," Dupras said. "She remembered the days when Saturday nights everyone would go downtown. This was when the women wore the long dresses and the streets were still made of dirt.
"The young men would hang out and watch the ladies step off the sidewalk onto the street. The ladies would have to lift up the hems of their dresses so they wouldn't get dirty. She said the young guys were trying to get a glimpse of their ankles. Or maybe even some leg," Dupras said. "Can you imagine? Isn't that funny?"
As she retires, Dupras is looking forward to a number of things.
"I want to do more with alternative health modalities," she said. "Also I want to go to visit my son and my daughter who live in Washington state."
Ryan and Andrea are her children who live way out west. Her son Trevor and his wife, Rachel, are a bit closer, in Procter, Minn.
"It will be wonderful to spend more time with my children," Dupras said. "And it will be great to spend time with my friends, to nurture my friendships."
She also hopes to travel and to be able to camp and kayak once the weather improves.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.