A local woman who has traveled the globe recently celebrated her 100th birthday but her extensive time volunteering for the Phoenix American Red Cross Chapter in North Central is a gift that keeps on giving.
Betty Grenig, whose volunteer base is the Red Cross office at 4747 N. 22nd St., was born on Aug. 15, 1921 and has served as a volunteer for the Red Cross for more than 80 years. A small gathering to mark her milestone birthday was held recently at the North Central Red Cross office.
Grenig was 20 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Her wedding to her fiancé, Robert, who was in the Army, was canceled and the couple wound up getting married in a small chapel on base, with Robert’s commanding officer giving Betty away. Grenig and her husband traveled around the world, spending time in Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Wherever they were stationed she volunteered at a Red Cross office and helped soldiers suffering from head and eye injuries. While Grenig was not a registered nurse, she helped with non-medical occupational therapy. She also taught young soldiers how to thread a knitting needle and knit small animals to develop eye-to-hand coordination. Grenig helped on Red Cross disaster calls until she had to cut back her work hours because she and Robert had children.
When Grenig and her family moved to Arizona in 1961, she signed up with the area Red Cross office. She worked in the office, as well as at dozens of blood drives. Grenig has donated 25 gallons of blood herself and she said “giving blood is one of the most important things you can do, and the Red Cross needs blood.”
Her time volunteering for the Red Cross has been filled with interesting and humorous encounters. Grenig remembered one time how a new volunteer came to the Red Cross office wearing roller skates. She told the woman that “we don’t wear roller-skates here” and the woman attempted to convince her she could work faster on skates. Another time Grenig saw Red Cross representatives from Korea eating cake in the kitchen of the local office. When she came into the kitchen she said “Hello” in Korean, which surprised her and the visitors as she had not thought about Korean in more than 40 years.
Grenig has collected numerous Red Cross pins over the years that she arranged in a shadow box. She puts piles of disaster information packets together to give to all families that have suffered through a fire or flood.