Red Cross has my heart, on Valentine’s Day and every day

My family’s Red Cross connection and how a blood drive led to lasting love

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager

February 14, 2020- Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Partly because it’s also my birthday but mostly because it’s the time to think about love and caring. In that spirit, here’s my love story.

My dad, Pvt. Charles Fedor, was 19 in the 1940s when his Army battalion was sent to Germany during World War II. He also fought in France before returning safely home. I’m sure he saw horrific things in those years but he never spoke about that time to his children.

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Pvt. Charles Fedor

What my dad did share with his children happened while he was still in basic training at Fort Sill. Sadly, his baby brother Paul died in a car accident and Dad told us how he was “brought home” by the American Red Cross. According to Dad, a Red Cross nurse was with the commanding officer to deliver the tragic news, waited while he packed his belongings and took him to the train station. When he arrived in Conneaut, a Red Cross worker met him at the train station and drove him home.

My quiet, soft-spoken dad, a lifetime blood donor, told his six children that they should all think of ways to give back to the Red Cross.

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Renee with her husband Stan Palagyi

Fast forward to 1969. My mother was working as a “Gray Lady”*  at the local Red Cross bloodmobile and they needed extra help. She called home where I was enjoying my two-week summer vacation from nursing school and “asked” that I come help. I was hooked the minute I arrived. Everyone was friendly and talkative and they were all thanking the blood donors. I couldn’t wait to go back to the next bloodmobile!

I graduated from nursing school in 1971 and made sure I always had the time in my surgical nurse schedule to work the blood drive every other month. Back then, we volunteer nurses were allowed to do more, and I routinely did histories and screening of about half of the 200-plus donors we had every 56 days.

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Renee and Stan’s wedding day

It happened that the January blood drive in 1973 was super busy and I worked the entire eight hours, screening donors and talking with many folks who had been greeted by my mom and her fellow Gray Ladies. What I did not know, was that my loving mother and her cohorts were carefully vetting the donors in search of a beau for me! All women and older men were directed to the other screener while I got all of the “eligible bachelors.” I can only imagine that greeting process, which went far beyond, “Did you read the materials today?” and more into, “So what do you do for a living?” Oh my.

Well, two days later I got a call. “Hi, my name is Stan Palagyi and we met at the bloodmobile. I was wondering if you’d like to see a movie this weekend.” I had absolutely NO IDEA who this person was after seeing so many donors that day. Yet, I was single and, admittedly, desperate for a date. I said “yes.”

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Stan and I were married in December 1973 and are the parents of four children and grandparents of eight. Just this past summer, we welcomed our first great grandchild.

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Renee and Stan Palagyi and their great-grandson

Stan and I are regular blood donors and on occasion have made it to the same blood drive where people enjoy hearing the story of how we met. I know my Type O negative blood is very valuable and I love watching the story of my donation on the Red Cross blood app. I am grateful for the chance to save up to three lives every 56 days. I am super grateful to have found the love of my life while we were both helping others through the Red Cross.

Show you care and give blood to help save a life. To find a blood drive near you, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

*Gray Ladies were Red Cross volunteers who wore a gray nurse-style uniform, complete with cap.

They worked in hospitals delivering flowers and gifts and sometimes the book cart ( mini lending library). They staffed hospital gift shops and made blankets and stuffed toys to sell there.

They did registrations and snacks at bloodmobiles. During the war, they packed gift boxes for soldiers with handmade socks etc.

In general, they were the non-professional female volunteer corps for many years.

I loved the Gray Ladies! – Renee Palagyi

 

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