CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was hard sometimes, caring for the sick, hardest when she could only help them die. But she got used to it. She got good at it, too.
Through it all, she took care of her eight children. And when she wasn't nursing someone on the job, she nursed ailing friends and family members.
Becky Williams spent a working lifetime as a licensed practical nurse, the career she dreamed of as a girl growing up in the coalfields. When she finally enrolled in nursing school, she already had four children.
For the last 37 years, she nursed at the Cabin Creek Health Center. She spent eight years before that at Charleston General Hospital.
Last month, at age 70, she finally had enough gumption to retire. But she probably won't stop taking care of people. She doesn't know anything else.
"When I was really young, we were at Notamine, a little coal mining town that isn't there anymore. They called it Tightroad, because the roads were dirt and there were houses on each side. My mom and dad divorced when I was 2, so my grandparents raised me. They were immigrants from Italy.
"Pawpaw, Jim DeRaimo, came over from Italy and went to work in the coal mines. Two years later, my grandmother came. They got married and had nine kids, one girl and the rest of 'em boys. She raised me until I got married. The divorce wasn't pretty, so my grandmother didn't let me see my mom very much.
"We left Notamine and moved to Chelyan. The turnpike took our house there. We moved to Miami when I was still in grade school. I went two years to St. Agnes in Kanawha City and started junior high in Chelyan.
"From the time I was a kid, I wanted to be a nurse. I had a good life with my grandparents -- excuse me, I'm going to cry -- but it wasn't like growing up with parents. My dad remarried and had kids, and my mom had kids, and it was like I didn't really belong. I just always felt like I wanted to be able to take care of people, to help other people.
"I was at East Bank High in the class of '59 and ended up pregnant. I had one semester to finish. I quit, had my baby and went back to school the next year.
"So I married my baby's father when I was 17, had another baby, then two more babies. Then, with four kids, I decided I wanted to go to LPN school in South Charleston.
"I loved it immediately. I never had any desire to go back to school to be an RN. I liked hands-on patient care.
"I started in pediatrics at General. I requested pediatrics. I was there for three years, got pregnant with twins and left long enough to have my babies. They were two or three weeks old when I went back, this time to General's emergency room.
"I worked the evening shift. I was there when Garrison Avenue flooded. We were wading in water up to our knees. We had several bodies of people who had drowned.
"We were trying to get one old woman undressed and she kept holding to her bra. I finally persuaded her to take it off. There was a sack in there with a wad of money. She had over $3,000 in her bra.
"Then I got pregnant with my son. I quit long enough to have him, then went back to General and floated to all the floors.
"My husband was killed in a car wreck when he was 29, in 1973. I took three months off, but then I had to go back. It was too depressing staying home.
"I remarried three or four years later and had another son. I got rid of that husband and raised those eight kids on my own.
"I came here in '76. This building wasn't done yet, so we opened for two years at Sharon Dawes School. Me, Dr. Robert Young and a receptionist were the only three working. My uncle, Tony DeRaimo, helped get this clinic started. He called and said they were going to start hiring.
"I loved pediatrics, but I loved being here because I knew a lot of people, and I felt like I was coming back to my community and trying to help people I grew up with.