(CNN)After more than 50 years as an emergency room nurse, Betty Grier Gallagher had more than earned the right to retire. But according to those who knew and loved her, she just couldn't. She cared that much.
A nurse for 50 years refused to retire when the pandemic began. She later died from Covid-19
Gallaher worked the night shift at Alabama's Coosa Valley Medical Center -- her preference, her son said, so she could mentor younger nurses. Known around the hospital as "Miss Betty,"she loved to be their sounding board, personal therapist and "work mom."
She'd make sure everyone she worked with was fed every night. She cared for her patients the same way she cared for her family and her coworkers, who became family themselves. She was, according to her loved ones, everyone's favorite nurse.
So when the Covid-19 pandemic began in March, Gallaher's concerned coworkers asked her, for her safety, to stay home.
But sitting back wasn't like her. She knew her colleagues and community needed her, so she continued to work until Covid-19 sidelined her in December.
Gallaher died from Covid-19 on January 10, one day before her 79th birthday, in the same hospital where she worked for much of her career.
"She didn't do it to stand out," said her son Carson Grier Jr. "She did it because this is who she was -- this is her calling."
Gallaher was a nurse for most of her life. She believed it was her lifelong duty to care for her patients and mentor her younger colleagues, said Grier, a high school basketball coach and elementary school physical education instructor.
"This was her purpose and plan for her life," Grier told CNN. "And she lived it daily."
She spent 43 years at Coosa Valley Medical Center in Sylacauga, about an hour southeast of Birmingham. It's where she met Chuck Terrell, then a radiology technician. The two were best friends for more than 30 years, and Gallaher even trained two of his sons as nurses at Coosa Valley.
"We've all worked with Betty now," Terrell said. "I never could make her understand how much everybody loved her."
One of the parts of the job she loved best was working with young nurses who were sometimes 50 years her junior, such as Coosa Valley ER nurse and supervisor Nikki Jo Hatten.
"Betty's the type that worries about you as a nurse just as much as she worries about a patient," Hatten told CNN. "She's gonna stop you while you're busy, just to make sure you're OK."
Gallaher knew everyone's name in the ER, plus the names of their partners, children and pets, Hatten said. She'd show up with a bag of burgers to feed anyone who forgot to bring a meal for their 12-hour shift. She'd hold your hand and wrap you in a warm blanket if you needed it. She showed the same love to her colleagues as she did to her family and children.
"She was the cure for an anxiety attack," Hatten said.
Miss Betty didn't fear working on the front lines of a disaster. She worked as a supervisor at a hospital in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina knocked out power and stranded many of her coworkers.
A few years after the 2005 hurricane, she told her son she was retiring. When he asked her what she'd do next, she said she'd go back to Coosa Valley, wh