In 1975, 17-year-old Cindy Hunt, in her orange mini-skirt, went into the then “Toole County Hospital” to apply for her first job as a nurses’ aid and ward clerk.
“George Pfifer was the administrator at the time, so I visited with him to get the job,” said Frydenlund. “I remember them telling me to put in for retirement after starting and I scoffed at first, it seemed so far away! But boy am I glad I did it now! Never thought I would’ve been here this long.”
Frydenlund is our longest ever working employee at 45 years. Frydenlund worked over at Toole County Hospital (currently Marias Heritage Center and City Hall) as a ward clerk and continued in that role for over 13 years, even through the transition to the current building as Marias Medical Center in 1981.
“My nephew, Scott Frydenlund, was the first baby born in the new facility. All the doors were bright colors, blues, oranges, greens,” recalled Frydenlund. “I’m glad we’ve had those painted since!”
Frydenlund has spent the majority of her 45 years in registration, with some short stints in billing.
“I prefer registration so much more, I like my people. It’s hard to only talk to people on the phone and with billing, they aren’t usually happy with you,” she smiled. “This way I get to visit with people.”
Frydenlund truly is the face of Marias Medical Center and is a familiar one for so many.
“It’s why I’ve stayed here for so long,” said Frydenlund. “I love what I do.”
Our patients love Frydenlund, the short visits in her little corner office, the candy she has for everyone (except during COVID-19), the seasonal decorations and her warm personality make patients coming in feel at home. It’s the personal touch and the friendly service that puts some at ease when they feel nervous for an exam or screening.
Much has changed over the past 45 years in the facility and Frydenlund shared with us some of her favorite memories and her wisdom.
“For one thing, smoking was widely accepted back in the ‘80s. Some of the doctors used to smoke at the Nurses’ Station and the employees could smoke in the break room, which would fill the patients’ rooms with smoke,” remembered Frydenlund. “Thankfully, that doesn’t happen anymore. It was just a different time. Registration used to all be paperwork, but it’s definitely more convenient now.”
When asked what her favorite memories were, she reflected fondly on the times with her friends from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“We had a really fun group together, we used to have a kitchenette in our break room and we would often make homemade food and had at least one pie baking contest,” said Frydenlund. “We would share with the patients too, but I feel bad now for those who had dietary issues and had to smell the good smells and only had clear liquids!”
Cindy laughed as she recalled the fun they had together, “We really were a big family.”
All of Cindy’s babies were born in Shelby. Her first two she had at Toole County Hospital and her last baby was a year after Marias Medical Center began. She had Tiffany in 1976, her son, Travis, in 1980 and Tennile in 1982.
“I love Dr. Stanchfield. He delivered me, then delivered my first two babies, but was out of town for my third baby.”
Cindy and her nursing friends still visit Dr. Stanchfield in Missoula every year for his birthday.
“He was the only doctor at that time and did an incredible job. He would always take Thursday afternoon off to go golf and I loved that about him,” said Frydenlund. “He could always be contacted there, but it was the one thing he did for himself and that’s partly what made it feel like a family. We respected him and knew he needed that time away,” she shared fondly.
When asked how the vision of the organization has shifted or stayed the same, Frydenlund said, “We didn’t have ‘visions’ back then! It was a different time, but taking care of my patients has never changed for me.”
Forty-five years is an incredible accomplishment to work in the same organization, with changing environments, staff and locations. Frydenlund has a content outlook on life and when things were challenging for her, she stayed because she loved the job.
“Change is hard, but you just stick it out. Sometimes the difficult time only lasts about six months or a year at most.”
Her smile, kindness and genuine interest and compassion for others not only encourages the patients that come in, but lifts up those that work around her. We are privileged to have Cindy Frydenlund on our team!
We asked her what her favorite things to eat, do, listen to, watch and read. She enjoys cooking with her sister, specifically as taste tester for one of her favorites, pork chops. Her absolute favorite thing to do is to spend time with her seven grandchildren.
“Just being around them makes me happy, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing,” she shared.
She does not watch much TV at all, but does like to spend her time relaxing with a good romance novel. The only thing Cindy really listens to is KSEN and enjoys hearing the news of the area.
Next time you’re in admissions and greeted by Cindy Frydenlund, be sure to congratulate her on being the longest ever working employee at Marias Medical Center!