Fredda Clisham retires at 95, says she’s ready to see what else is out there

Fredda Clisham is an active 95-year-old who will retire in October from the University of Michigan Health System. She joined the team in 1970 as a temporary staff member in several areas. In the mid-eighties, Fredda began working part-time with Child Life and Volunteer Services.

Fredda Clisham

“Most of my time was spent sending acknowledgements to people who had made donations, books, games and toys for patients,” she says.

In 2002, the job she’d had for more than 15 years became a full-time position. Not interested in working full time, the mother-of-five, grandmother-of-three and great-grandmother-of-two transferred to the Women’s Health Resource Center. She’s worked there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday ever since.

“I assemble patient information folders and packets for the Women’s Hospital Birth Center and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, making sure the materials are ready when needed. We prepare a lot of patient information —four different folders just for the Birth Center,” says Fredda.

“I also answer the phones and do general office work. We get a lot of calls from patients and people in the community looking for information about various women’s health issues. We have a lending library filled with some great books that people can check out. I’ve read through many of them and they are very informative.”

Fredda has lived a full 95 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

“I graduated from Ann Arbor High School in 1937 at the end of the Great Depression. Even though college tuition back then was only $50 a semester, it might as well have been $5,000, because my family couldn’t afford it. I took secretarial courses in high school and was fortunate enough to get a job right after I graduated.”

She worked until she had her first child and was then a stay-at-home mom for many years. When her youngest started kindergarten, she took a part-time job, first at Burns Park Elementary School then later at Clonlara School, a private school in Ann Arbor. Her husband, Pat, retired in 1970 and they traveled together. They spent six months of the year in Key West and did a lot of camping in Michigan and elsewhere. He died in 1986, and Fredda has continued to travel and look for opportunities to expand her mind.

“I did Semester at Sea in 1997,” she says. “It was a great experience. We spent three and a half months traveling and visiting nine countries. There were about 650 college students and 35 senior citizens on board. The senior citizens could audit the classes, which I loved. I especially enjoyed being in class with the young students.”

Fredda still takes classes. Last fall she audited “American Culture & Politics” a U-M class taught by her neighbor.  She’s also taken many classes at Washtenaw Community College. “I just really enjoy learning, and the discussions that take place in the classroom.”

Now at 95, Fredda has decided to retire. “It was not an easy decision. Working at the U-M Health System is educational, exciting and interesting. But, I want to leave when they still wished I’d stay,” she says. “I also figure that at 95, it’s time to see what else is out there.”

What’s she going to do with her free time?

“Well, I tell people that first I’m going to clean my oven – that should take until Christmas! I also hope to take some classes and volunteer at my neighborhood elementary school. I love to read and I want to help inspire young children to love reading. In my opinion, there’s no greater gift you can give a child than to nurture a love for books. You can’t play soccer or football forever, but you can read for the rest of your life.”

Take the next step:

As part of our commitment to providing unparalleled women’s health care, the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital is committed to providing women access to educational resources, wellness information, and outreach activities through our unique Women’s Health Program. The Women’s Health Program offers a wide variety of classes and educational programs throughout Southeast Michigan, in addition to maintain a full-service Women’s Health Resource Center (WHRC) providing women and their families with access to credible health information in a comfortable and supportive environment. Our knowledgeable Women’s Health Program staff and volunteers help clients access helpful health and wellness information, including offering the following services:

  • lending library featuring books, DVDs and other resources you can check out for up to one month
  • Pamphlets, handouts and articles and on hundreds of health and wellness topics
  • Educational classes and seminars
  • Support for breastfeeding mothers
  • Connections to UMHS programs, services and physicians.

The Center is open during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During non-business hours, clients are encouraged to use our 24-hour voice messaging system to leave a message so one of our staff members can assist you.