Born in Kentucky, Wilma, now 85, grew up with two sisters. Her brother died of whooping cough in infancy. Her dad was employed as a civil service worker at the Blue Grass Ordinance Depot in Richmond, and her mom cared for the family. After high school, Wilma got a job as a secretary for a local dry cleaning company before becoming a Southern Bell telephone operator. At 21, she married her husband, Roland.
Soon after their marriage, Roland started working for a land surveying company and eventually became a licensed land surveyor. They traveled extensively with the company he worked for.
“It was an adventure,” Wilma says. “There were several families in the same kind of work and we all moved when the work moved. I’ve cleaned so many new apartments! But I don’t remember ever complaining. It was interesting, seeing all the different places as we traveled, and we still treasure those friends today.
“Each time we moved we would find a church nearby. We reasoned that the children in the Sunday Schools would also be in our children’s rooms at school. They made many good friends through the church and so did Roland and I.”
In 1970, the couple decided it was time to settle down so that the children would have more stability. Roland got a job in Atlanta and the family became Georgians. It was then, at almost age 40, that Wilma finally went to nursing school and began her nursing career.
“I enrolled in nursing at Clayton State and worked nights at Clayton General Hospital,:” she recalls. “Some days, or nights, I would get to the intersection where I would think ‘which way do I go, school or work?’ After finishing school I became an R.N. For years, I worked in a hospital and somewhere in all this I worked weekends for a Home Health Company. About 1981, I became a staff nurse in a family medical practice in Fayetteville.”
“Don’t jump at anything until you know it’s your calling from God. Get as much education as you can and then find a job where you’ll be happy and can help people.”
Wilma retired in 2000 to care for her mother and, after her mother passed, she brought her aunt from Tacoma, Washington to care for her until her death.
“Taking care of them was a blessing for me,” she says. “I would not trade that experience for the world.”
Retirement didn’t last long for Wilma, though. Wilma and Roland had bought property in Fayette County in 1977 and joined a church there and, after Wilma retired, the principal of a Clayton County elementary school, who attended the same church, convinced her to interview for a position as the school nurse. Wilma didn’t think she would be hired, but she was. A few years later, she transferred to Lee Middle School in Sharpsburg, and she’s now been there almost seven years.
“I absolutely love school nursing; it is hard work but rewarding,” she says. “I like interacting with the children and we have a great school. I work with terrific people. Our principal calls us the ‘Fami-Lee’ and we really are!”
Wilma says her life goal has been to have the endurance of Corrie ten Boom, the understanding of C. S. Lewis, the faith of Charles Mueller, and the love of Mother Teresa.
“Wilma is my hero,” says her nominator, Mary Lynn Kirby. “She is wisdom personified. I have seen Wilma exemplify this through her life, both personally and professionally. I have been with her on two mission trips, one to China and one to Lao and any time we had any question about just about anything, the answer would be to ‘ask Wilma.’ She has been on 20 other international mission trips – and she’s written three books!”
Roland and Wilma have been married 64 years, and have three children, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Roland is retired only because of his health, but Wilma has no such plans.
“Wilma is my hero. She is Wisdom personified. I have seen Wilma exemplify this through her life, both personally and professionally. She has been on 22 international mission trips. Currently, she continues to use her amazing wisdom in her role as a school nurse at a local middle school. In her spare time, she has written 3 books. She is also a wonderful partner and help to her husband of 64 years, Roland McCann, and a mother of 3. ” – Mary Lynn Kirby
“I plan to work as long as I can,” she says. “As long as I can move and think clearly – and they’ll have me – I’ll work. I love what I do. And I’m blessed to keep doing it.”