Rebecca Taylor believes nursing is one of the most rewarding professions a person could have.
"As a nurse, there is nothing that will ever replace the joy and warmth in your heart for having helped a patient," she said.
During her 41-year career at East Texas Medical Center, Mrs. Taylor has cared for mostly cancer patients.
"They teach us a life lesson really," she said. "To enjoy life every day and live it to the fullest each day."
Mrs. Taylor, 64, was one of this year's Women in Tyler. Six local women were honored in March for being "Women Who Care."
"I don't see anything very outstanding that I have done," Mrs. Taylor said of receiving the honor. "All I've done is live my faith. … We all should care for one another. This world would be a better world if we all did that."
Mrs. Taylor was born in the Philippines and was 22 when she moved to Tyler, recruited by ETMC to become a nurse here.
She said a lot of the female college students in her native country study to become nurses because it's the easiest way to get to America.
"What we make in one day here, they earn in a month," she said.
Mrs. Taylor hadn't always planned to move to the U.S. but discovered she wanted to be a nurse while serving in the Girl Scouts in high school. She said they went to a village evacuated by an erupted volcano and took care of the children while their parents gathered what they could to start over.
"It felt good helping people," Mrs. Taylor said.
Her father owned a small general store and wanted her to become a pharmacist. Moving halfway around the world at age 22 and leaving her family behind was hard, but there were five other nurses who came with her, some of which were college classmates.
"We came here, and it was difficult. But it was exciting, too," she said.
All she knew of Texas was cowboys and desert, but what she saw was different than what she had in mind. The biggest surprise was how big and tall Americans were, while they all weighed less than 100 pounds, she said.
Tyler was very receptive to the foreign nurses.
"We couldn't have come to a better town," she said.
They came in December 1972, moved into furnished apartments and were given pots, pans and other necessities gathered by hospital staff. They weren't allowed to leave the Philippines with more than $50, but they somehow managed to stretch it out.
"We cried a lot, but we survived," she said.
Mrs. Taylor planned to stay in Tyler for a few years and move onto different states and possibly to Europe. But she met someone, fell in love and never left. She and her husband of nearly 40 years, Jimmy, have two sons.
She started at ETMC as a charge nurse. In 1979, she made head nurse of the medical surgical floor and from 1988 to 1993, was head nurse of the cancer unit.
She moved to be nurse manager of outpatient radiation therapy at ETMC's Cancer Institute for several years before she started working to recruit nurses to the hospital. She visited colleges and job fairs and even went on two recruiting trips to the Philippines in 1990 and 2002.
Mrs. Taylor still works in human resources for ETMC but now recruits for medical, radiology and surgical technicians and clerical positions. She doesn't do much traveling anymore and said they get most of their employees from local colleges or online.
Mrs. Taylor has volunteered for the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and Bethesda Health Clinic. Last year, she went to the Philippines to help people devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. She volunteered with MercyWorks and traveled to several villages to treat patients and give out medicine and supplies.
"That was a very rewarding trip …" she said. "They were very thankful for whatever we could give them."
Over the years, she has returned to her native country to visit her family. Her father and three brothers have died and her mother now lives with her in Tyler.
After 41 years, she still works at ETMC full-time and has no plans to retire, she said, adding that she'll re-evaluate that option when she turns 65.
When she's not working, Mrs. Taylor loves reading cookbooks to learn different cultural backgrounds. As far as the exotic dishes in those books, she will try just about anything, but her husband doesn't like to venture out of meat and potatoes, she said. Mrs. Taylor also loves to read travel books, and when she does decide to retire, she hopes to travel more.
She said she was shocked and humbled to learn she was chosen as one of the Women in Tyler, she doesn't know who nominated her and doesn't realize what she has done to deserve the honor.
The other 2014 Women in Tyler include Irma Rodriguez, Beverly Beavers Brooks, Jennifer Carson, Jean Coleman and Verna Hall.
If you know of a professional woman or business service in the Tyler area that should be highlighted in this column, contact email@example.com.