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Senior citizen says her prayers were answered

October 13, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Describing her life as too busy to get married and have children, Florence Buila instead spent many years of her professional life as a licensed practical nurse helping women deliver their babies in Washington County Hospital's delivery room.

Now 90 years old, Buila is a resident of Park View Knolls senior housing in Williamsport and, despite her age, the Detroit native still gets out and about - with a little help from some new friends.

"We all look after her and the other residents, too," said Jim Elliott, a county housing maintenance employee, who said Buila's daily routine of watching a building being erected nearby caught his eye a few months ago.

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"I noticed that she'd walk down to the construction site on her walker, so I put a chair down there for her," Elliott said. "It's a long walk."

Using a regular walker became a struggle for Buila, so a walker with wheels was found for her. When wheels took her a little too fast, bright orange tennis balls were placed on the walker to slow her down.

"I really like going down to watch the construction work," Buila said. Benches along the way - donated by local businesses - also give her and other residents a rest when they need it.

Elliott said he and "Miss B," as he calls her, became friends around Labor Day when a strong storm blew up suddenly one afternoon.

Buila said the weather was fine that day when she set out for the construction site just down the block from her cottage.

"It started to get windy and then the sky got very dark, so I headed back," Buila said. "I got about halfway there and it just dropped down on me."

The wind was so strong and it was raining so hard that Buila could only make it as far as a tree across the street from the maintenance complex.

"I called out twice for help and then they saw me," she said.

Elliott and co-worker Bill Rogers were waiting out the late afternoon storm inside the maintenance building when Elliott looked out and saw Buila.

"She was standing there with her arms wrapped around the tree," Elliott said.

He and Rogers ran out with big yellow raincoats, wrapped them around Buila and got her safely to her apartment.

"I prayed to God and he sent them to get me home," Buila said.

That storm, which hit the Williamsport area hard, felled a number of large trees in the senior housing complex and caused extensive damage in the nearby softball park. Elliott said neither he nor "Miss B" soon will forget that day.

Buila chalked it up to just another incident when her prayers were answered through associations with people in her life.

She said she found her way to Washington County in her younger days, when she drove cars to all points in the country for a drive-away company in the Midwest. She drove vehicles to California, upstate New York and then one day, a trip to the Washington, D.C., area was on her agenda.

"When I was in Washington, D.C., I came through Hagerstown and stopped at the Alexander Hotel," Buila said. "I was in my 40s when I got a job as a baby sitter for a family in Fairplay."

Deciding to stay, she went to nursing school in Baltimore and got a job at Washington County Hospital.

A resident of Park View since March, Buila previously had a second-floor apartment on Conococheague Street for 30 years until the steps got to be too much for her.

Her friendship with Elliott and others in her new residence is very special to her and to them, both agreed.

When she isn't checking out the construction work, Buila said she has other ways to keep busy.

"This world needs a lot of prayer, and I'm doing that now," Buila said.

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