POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - It might be easier to say what 84-year-old Rene Vandergriff hasn't done in her life.
A Korean War veteran, this native of Oconee, in Randolph County, has never been afraid of work. But nearly all of her jobs have been in service to others.
A former member of the United States Air Force, former EMT and volunteer firefighter makes her way to the Randolph County jail several times a week.
Even at 84 years old, Vandergriff still works part-time for the jail.
"Last month, I worked 104 hours in two weeks," Vandergriff said. "I'm getting too old for that!"
Sheriff Gary Tribble worked closely with Glenda Causbie to arrange our visit to surprise Vandergriff.
Causbie has known Vandergriff since she was 16 years old.
"I hope that I have the compassion and all those good traits that Rene exhibits someday when I am 84," Causbie said.
Sheriff Tribble told Vandergriff that she needed to come to the sheriff's department to get a new photo ID, but the only picture-taking on this day would be our cameras rolling as the surprise announcement was made.
"Oh, my goodness. I watch you every night," Vandergriff said with a huge smile and followed with a hug. She received $408 for being a Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner, thanks to First Community Bank and KAIT.
"I see that on TV," Vandergriff said. "Oh, my look at my chill bumps!"
"She's a mentor for some of the inmates at the jail," said Sheriff Tribble.
Vandergriff said she's never afraid of the inmates.
"I am older than them and a female," Vandergriff said. "Every one of them has got a momma and a lot of them have wives."
Vandergriff earns the respect of many of them through her hard work. "I don't get older," she said. "I get stronger."
Vandergriff found her strength from humble beginnings.
"I was the third generation of Crawfords born in that old log house down there," Vandergriff said.
She left home for service in the United States Air Force.
"The guys were all taller than me," Vandergriff said. "The major was up there calling names and he said, 'Crawford.' That was my maiden name. I said, 'Here, sir!' 'He said Crawford! Front and center!' I don't know if he thought it was some guy with a funny voice. I went up there and he pushed his cap back and said, 'What in the H am I gonna do with you?!'"
No job was too difficult.
Vandergriff has worked as a police officer in Los Angeles County, California.
"It was dangerous out there," Vandergriff explained. "High noon and you drove your patrol car through there. You'd have to have the doors locked and the windows rolled up. I rode shotgun and it was bad down there."
A single parent, Vandergriff raised one son who admired his mother's service to her country so much that he went into the military as well.
Vandergriff worked the security detail at a freight yard while her son was growing up.
She's been a licensed funeral home director and worked with the Arkansas State Police to pass an infant restraint law.
Right now, she volunteers her time to caring for veterans and their families.
"I tell you. I have a strong faith in my heavenly father," Vandergriff said. "I wouldn't have made it through the last three years."
Cancer has tried to take her down twice, but she battled back.
"Rene is a survivor," Causbie said. "She is a good person and has such a good heart."
Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.