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Her Hands Never Stop Helping

Thu., Dec. 12, 1996

When Emma Frisch retired from a long career as a state government worker the last thing she wanted to do was slow down.

“I found if you keep working all your life, it keeps you younger,” said Frisch. “If you sit in a rocking chair, you don’t last.”

Frisch was honored Tuesday by members of the South Hill Senior Center, where she has spent the past 11 years working as a part-time office manager.

At age 79, Frisch is proving retirement from a full-time job can be the beginning of a new chapter of life.

Now she is scaling back her duties at the senior center, in what she calls a second retirement of sorts, but plans to continue helping with regular activities like lunches, dances and classes.

She also wants to finish a book she is writing about the humorous side of human nature.

Nearly 1,300 members belong to the center at 2727 S. Mount Vernon in Lincoln Heights.

Frisch was one of the first to join when the center was organized in 1985.

“My nature is to help people,” she said.

Many of those she helped repaid the favor by recognizing her during the center’s annual Christmas luncheon Tuesday.

Mahli Burrill, activities director, said of Emma in an interview, “She is one of these ladies who doesn’t have an enemy. She’s always here with a smile and a wonderful word. I always smile when I say her name.”

Myrna Johnson-Ross, director of the center for the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, said Emma Frisch is well known for making everyone who enters the center feel welcome.

She trained senior volunteers to cook, give rides, run activities, clean up and keep up the paperwork.

“Whenever she found out someone was sick or needed assistance, she would become the most resourceful person I’ve ever known,” Johnson-Ross wrote in a letter commending Frisch.

“She would find ways to get help, either through members helping members or through an appropriate agency,” Johnson-Ross wrote.

Frisch said she was shy when she was a child because she suffered from a dislocated hip.

By the time she finished high school in Coeur d’Alene, she decided to fight through her disability and have a career.

She went to business school and landed a job with the unemployment agency in Idaho. Later she moved to Spokane and went to work for the Washington Employment Security Department.

Frisch spent 37 years combined at the agencies, retiring in 1980.

“After you work with the public so long, it’s very difficult to be away from people,” she said.

So when the senior center opened in 1985, Frisch was there. “I’ve watched the growth of this center and it’s wonderful,” she said.

“The most important people to me are family and friends,” she said.

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