Man, 95, oldest hospital volunteer

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG --  Lawrence 'Larry' Dominguez, of Ponchatoula, who at 95, is the oldest volunteer at North Oaks Health System in Hammond.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Lawrence 'Larry' Dominguez, of Ponchatoula, who at 95, is the oldest volunteer at North Oaks Health System in Hammond.

Lawrence ‘Larry’ Dominguez shows no sign of slowing down. The Ponchatoula resident, who turned 95 on Feb. 7, is the oldest volunteer at North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond.

Dominguez has volunteered at the hospital for the past 20 years.

As a transport volunteer, Dominguez collects records, charts and equipment. He also delivers flowers and escorts discharged patients, among other responsibilities. His enthusiastic smile and sharp wit garner smiles from many of the patients he helps.

“I love volunteering. I always have, and I’ll be here as long as I’m moving,” Dominguez said. “I feel as young as ever, in my mind of course.

“The volunteers we have here are the best, and we joke and get along so well,” he said. “I really do enjoy the good company. It keeps me going.”

Dominguez said he enjoys delivering flowers best of all of his hospital duties.

“You can see the smiles,” he said.

When asked if he ever visits the nursery, Dominguez quipped, “No. I’m scared. They might try and give me one.”

He said he also enjoys transporting patients in wheelchairs when they leave the hospital because most are happy to leave, although he still remembers one man who didn’t want to go because he was returning to a nursing home.

Dominguez’s voice softened as he talked about former volunteers he has outlived.

Of the more than half-a-dozen couples that he and his wife used to have dinner parties with, he is the only man still alive, he said.

He credits his longevity to keeping both his body and his mind occupied.

“I stay active,” Dominguez said. “Even when I stay home, I try to keep going.”

“I don’t know how a 95 year old is supposed to feel but I don’t feel 95,” he said. “I’m 95 going on 39. I don’t have aches and pains. I’m just lucky.”

His daily regime also includes 45 minutes of physical activity.

Dominquez’s good health and “luck” and he calls it had helped him amass 6,349.25 hours of volunteer hours as of February, said Melissa Dufour, volunteer director.

Dufour described Dominguez as the epitome of a great volunteer and attributes his kindness, positivity and dedication to service as assets to visitors and members of the staff.

“If ever there was a benchmark for a volunteer, it’s Larry Dominguez,” Dufour said. “In my 20 years of working with him, I’ve seen only a kind and considerate man with a huge desire to help everyone. Never have I heard him speak negatively about anyone or anything.

He’s amazing,” Dufour said. “ His energy is incredible, and his enthusiasm for life is contagious. He’s full of joy, and it shows.”

“He will do anything if he is capable of doing it,” Dufour said.

North Oaks Medical Center has 127 adult volunteers 18 years and older, 15 volunteers in the student program, 31 high school students in the Medical Examiner program, 50 high school students who volunteer in the summer and 24 hospice volunteers, Dufour said.

Before joining the North Oaks volunteer staff, Dominguez, who said he was born and raised in Ponchatoula, continued a family tradition, graduating from barber school in 1951 and going on to own and retire from Dominguez Barber Shop after 50 years.

Following heart surgery he slowed down but eventually retired following surgery to his hand, he said.

“Every man that passes by I notice his haircut,” Dominguez said.

“I’ve seen some terrible looking haircuts,” he said as he chuckled.

He also served in the U.S. Navy.

“I figured if I didn’t join the Navy, the Army was going to get me,” he said smiling.

Dominguez said he and his fellow Navy men would set submarine nets at the mouth of the harbor where he was stationed. After awhile, he said he could always tell if a Japanese submarine was approaching simply by the sound of its motor.

Dominquez is also a lifetime member of the Ponchatoula chapters of the Knights of Columbus and American Legion Hall.

He has two children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, he said.

Dominguez said his wife of 68 years, Bertha Dominguez, began volunteering at North Oaks a year before he did and he’s glad she did.

“I could look the world over again and never find a woman near as great,” Dominguez said. Not only that, but his wife showed him the benefits of serving as a volunteer.

Together they were named Volunteer of the Year at the hospital in 2003.

“I love it here,” Dominguez said. “I say anybody that is retired and has got time on their hands should come up here.” To learn about volunteer opportunities at North Oaks Health System for men and women, ages 14 and older, go to http://www.northoaks.org or call the Volunteer Office at (985) 230-6811.