published Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Lab staffer retires 2nd time

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    Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Charles Haun, 80, medical technologist at Memorial Hospital, loads a centifuge in the lab on his last day at Memorial Hospital.

Charles Haun was a pretty popular guy at Memorial Hospital.

For more than 38 years he has always been on time, “doing what he’s supposed to do, when he’s supposed to do it,” a supervisor said.

“He’s one of God’s great creations,” added a cashier at the hospital food court.

Haun was a model employee, and by all accounts always has been one, for the nearly four decades at Chattanooga’s second-largest hospital.

So it’s no surprise that as he nears his second — and his wife hopes, last — retirement, the busy lab deep within Memorial is full of sad smiles.

“Everybody really likes Charlie,” said Ross Moore, who oversees the lab.

Haun began working as an X-ray technician for the U.S. Air Force in 1951 during the Korean conflict, a year before Memorial Hospital was founded in Chattanooga by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

“I didn’t particularly like X-raying,” Haun said, so he went to college and studied chemistry.

In 1965, he began working at Memorial in the chemistry lab in his early 30s.

“In chemistry, there’s a challenge every day,” Haun said. “Back in the day, if you were good, you were lucky if you could get a blood sugar report out in an hour.”

Haun quickly had to adapt to changing technology, beginning in 1970 when the hospital bought its first machine for chemical analysis.

Since then, “It’s been uphill all the way,” but he’s never given up, and never failed to learn a new test or procedure, co-workers say.

“Everything [the doctors] want, they want 30 minutes ago,” Moore said. “We get it done as fast as we can.”

He said he doesn’t know exactly what his secret is to a nearly 40-year career in a traditionally high-stress job, but it has a lot to do with “being dedicated and being decent.”

Haun retired once after three decades on the job, but following a number of years of world travel, “he got bored,” his wife, Kathleen, said.

So in 2001, he came back for another tour of duty.

“Somebody told me that they were short on help. I asked them if they could use an over-70-year-old man,” he said.

They could.

His wife attended his 80th birthday party in the lab’s break room last week, greeting Haun’s co-workers warmly on his next-to-last day.

The two have been married 60 years, she said, and she’s excited to have him home.

“He’ll get bored again — he’ll be back again,” she said. “He enjoys hospital work; that’s all he knows.”

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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