Shirley Gilbertson loved her temp job so much, she stayed on for free

STANWOOD — Shirley Gilbertson really liked her temp office job at Fire Station 99 in Stanwood.

So much so that she stayed on to work for free after a permanent replacement was hired.

Her co-workers are glad she did and showed their affection with a name plate they had made for her.

It reads:

Shirley Gilbertson

Volunteer Station Grandma

It’s a title she embraces.

“There are many ways to get paid,” Gilbertson said. “There are lots of hugs around here and there is laughter. I just fell in love with this place, all the people here.”

She typically volunteers one to two days a week, gladly taking on whatever tasks are asked of her, from invoices to putting together packets for a fire prevention campaign in the schools.

On Monday, a fire truck with a full crew, including North County Fire-EMS Chief John Cermak, stopped by her home a few blocks from the station to pick her up for a special assignment.

The department wanted Gilbertson to place pink ribbon-shaped magnets on fire trucks and aid cars at four of the five regional fire authority’s stations. The ribbons are symbols promoting Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It was 11 years ago that Gilbertson was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent radiation and two surgeries.

“We think it’s important for her to know that we appreciate her dedication to all of us here at North County Fire-EMS as well as show our support in her recovery and wellness,” said Katie Ellis, an executive assistant with the regional agency.

“I just was totally blown away,” Gilbertson said. “The attention they give me here is totally unbelievable. I have never experienced that much love. It’s just wonderful.”

Gilbertson, 67, credits her full recovery from breast cancer to early detection, excellent medical care and her faith. She hopes the emphasis on annual checkups will help others.

“It has come a long way in terms of public awareness and in the support,” she said.

Gilbertson has deep roots in the Stanwood area, dating back to pioneering homesteaders in the 1800s, and she’s thankful for the chance to do something helpful for her hometown.

The crew at the fire station is happy for that.

“She really looks out for us,” Cermak said. “I think Shirley really exemplifies serving the community.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446,

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