MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When she started her career, Dwight Eisenhower was president. More than a half a century and 10 presidents later, a Twin Cities nurse is still on the job.

Gena Schottmuller has been working at St. John’s Hospital for most of her career. This week, HealthEast Care Systems will honor the 78 year old for her unusually long career.

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One of 10 kids, Schottmuller was born in St. Paul to Italian immigrants. She got a scholarship to do what she says she was made to do.

“I think I’ve always wanted to help other people,” she said. “I think that’s something God put in my heart.”

She built a family while sculpting her dream, working all over St. John’s Hospital.

“I would work nights, I worked days, I worked in surgery, I worked in the nursery,” she said. “I’ve had quite a variety.”

But there was one specialty her former boss, Dr.Craig Svedsen, says she has a special knack for.

“Infections and infection control, keeping people safe, that was just her passion, and she did it wonderfully,” Svedsen said.

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Her most memorable moment she says was when an AIDS patient arrived in her care. She eventually calmed her petrified co-workers.

“Those same nurses called to tell me they were going to the patient’s house, and they were going to play games with him, and I thought that was a remarkable change in behavior because of information,” Schottmuller said.

Information she says is now key for the fight against Ebola.

“Several years ago, it was HIV that hit the papers like that,” Schottmuller said. “But this is different in that they die quickly.”

When asked if she will work to 60 years, she said: “We’ll see.”

Schottmuller did attempt retirement at one point, after her beloved husband passed away in 2000. But before long, she was back at the hospital. She says she doesn’t like eating lunch alone.

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She’s being honored at a dinner this week, and WCCO-TV’s Frank Vascellaro will be in attendance.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield