Jack and Millie West from Sidney have two passions: blood donating and cruising. Holding his latest Community Blood Center (CBC) t-shirt from the St. Michael’s Blood Drive in Fort Loramie Tuesday, Feb. 21 Jack says, “The first time I wear this will be on the ship. I don’t wear them ahead of time.”
But in a rare interruption of her strong-minded husband, Millie counters, “I’ll wear mine right now. I’m proud to be a blood donor!”
Jack counters back, “Too cold!” And Millie acquiesces a bit, saying, “That’s true, I have to have long-sleeves,” but she has made her point. After making her 80 LTD milestone donation, and receiving a special “10 Gallon Blood Donor” plaque from CBC Shelby Co. Rep. Kathy Pleiman that matches the one Jack received 16 donations ago, Millie is ready to let the world know.
As dedicated donors and cruise ship travelers, letting the world know about the gift of life is a mission these retirees take seriously. They wear their CBC blood donor t-shirts proudly and prominently on jaunts from St. Maarten to Nassau, or St. Thomas to San Juan.
“People stop and comment about them,” says Millie. Jack believes it influences their fellow travelers and others they meet to consider blood donations. “It’s great for any place in the world where they can do this,” he says.
Jack proudly talks about “giving his first pint” back in 1951 while serving in the Air Force and stationed in Portland, Maine. He is only four donations shy of reaching the 100 LTD but today was deferred due to low hematocrit level. He kept a nervous eye toward the donor area as Millie prepared to donate, hoping she could reach her milestone. Neither knew that Kathy Pleiman had the 10 gallon plaque waiting. It left Millie speechless.
“I was real surprised,” she said, collecting herself. “I wasn’t expecting that!” “I can’t remember what mine looks like,” mused Jack. “This is probably the prettiest!”
Millie remembers making her first donation many years ago when she worked for Nationwide Insurance. The company drove volunteers to the collection site, bought them lunch afterwards and gave them the rest of the day off.
Finding time to donate since hasn’t always been as convenient. Millie retired after 28 years of teaching middle school. The cruising hasn’t always been smooth sailing. They can remember leaving New York Harbor during the bedlam of 9/11, and cruising again from New York in later years and seeing construction cranes where the Twin Towers once stood.
Her favorite cruise took them to Belize where they toured the Mayan ruins. (Jack fondly remembers the cruise that was the best bargain!). In September they will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary. Hopefully by then Jack will be closing in another important number, 100 LTD (“It’s just a good round number!” he says) and more people in exotic places will be asking Jack and Millie, “Where did you get that t-shirt?”