Former Lake Regional Hospital Auxiliary leader leaves legacy of better health for the community
Like the hurricane winds that blow in her beloved hometown of New Orleans, Kathleen Bridget “Kitty” McCarthy was a force of nature. Her incredible energy helped shape Lake Regional Health System through her leadership of volunteers, her support of nurses and her promotion of expanding services. A longtime champion of Lake Regional, McCarthy, who passed away March 13, left a lasting legacy for this community through volunteerism and philanthropy.
McCarthy had grit. At a time when female executives were uncommon, McCarthy shattered the glass ceiling. Beginning in 1957, McCarthy worked for Amoco Oil Company in New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago before retiring to the Lake of the Ozarks in 1988.
McCarthy also had a heart of gold. Her commitment to Lake Regional stemmed from a deep desire to help others. She began volunteering at the hospital in 1989 and quickly became president of the Auxiliary and then director of Volunteer Services. During her 23 years of service to Lake Regional McCarthy logged more than 37,000 volunteer hours, an accomplishment that was recognized at the state and national level.
“I have never met and will never again meet someone who gave so much of themselves to an organization, totally as a volunteer,” said Vicki Franklin, who worked closely with McCarthy as Lake Regional’s chief operating officer before retiring in 2013. “If we needed to raise funds for a service, all we had to do was call her. She’d say, ‘I’m on it,’ and she was.”
Franklin, who was also a close personal friend of McCarthy’s, said Kitty understood Lake Regional’s vital role in the community.
“She knew health care would be important to the lake area’s economic growth,” Franklin said. “She wanted to be sure the services here were the best you could get.”
Under McCarthy’s leadership, the Auxiliary contributed more than $2.7 million to the hospital. Her commitment included serving as co-chair of the successful capital campaign for cancer treatment services. And during her last year at Lake Regional, McCarthy developed the memorial brick garden, located near the Emergency Department.
“Kitty was a very caring and generous person,” Franklin said. “One reason she was a successful fundraiser is that she gave herself. She led by example. She was really a good person, and she treated others well.”
In addition to fundraising to expand health care services, McCarthy contributed to the ongoing success of Lake Regional employees. In 1992, she initiated a nursing scholarship to help Lake Regional employees pursuing or furthering nursing careers.
Scholarship recipient Ashley Mikles, R.N., now the director of Progressive Care at Lake Regional, remembers well the day she learned she would receive a $10,000 scholarship from the hospital Auxiliary.
“At the time, I worked in PCU as a patient care tech,” Mikles said. “During her stay, Miss Kitty asked about my life and knew that I had just been accepted to nursing school. She also knew that I had two small children at home whose dad was away at boot camp. On her last day, I answered her call light to find her holding the scholarship check. She said, ‘You are going to be amazing and I want to help you.’ It made me cry.”
Mikles said McCarthy checked on her throughout the years and kept encouraging her to succeed.
“She was a role model,” Mikles said. “When she spoke, people listened. To have someone like that believe in me as a young PCT was inspirational.”
Now Mikles, who manages 60 employees, is paying it forward by investing in her nursing team.
“She cared about me and my life,” Mikles said. “Now, I try to give that same support and encouragement to others.”
McCarthy requested that memorial donations in her name be made to Lake Regional Hospital Auxiliary. These contributions will help fund the Ethel Rayburn Nursing Scholarship, the program McCarthy started to assist Lake Regional employees seeking nursing careers.
“As Kitty aged and was in-and-out of the hospital, she always knew which nurses the Auxiliary had helped educate,” Franklin said. “She was so proud of them all.”
Rest in peace, Miss Kitty. Countless lives are better because we knew you.