Thursday, January 10, 2019

Northeast Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight: Kate & Gerry Tron - January 2019

Often individuals become Red Cross volunteers when they have recently been exposed to a need met by the local Red Cross, have been a recipient of a Red Cross service, or want to find a meaningful opportunity to give back to their community.

Sometimes we find Red Cross volunteers who have been Red Crossers for a very long time. As volunteers or as staff members in the past, they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the local Red Cross organization. Such is the case with Kate and Gerry Tron, whose Red Cross experiences go back to the 1960s and 1970s. When they began to volunteer for the Red Cross in Newport, TN a few years ago, they brought over 100 years of experience with the organization along with them! They may be retired, but they have the enthusiasm and energy of teenagers!

In 1961, Gerry took Junior Lifesaving and Water Safety Aid training; and eventually with more training, he began teaching swimming and lifeguarding classes in Kansas. Little did he know the Red Cross organization would provide him with varied and exciting life experiences for the rest of his life. After a few years he added Lifesaving, First Aid, CPR, and Small Craft (Boating, Canoeing, etc.) to his training skills. In his real life, he worked in law enforcement and met Kate, who would become his wife. Kate was a nurse working at a hospital in Missouri. One of his responsibilities was to be a “bodyguard” for her – escorting her to and from her vehicle. How is that for an unusual way to meet your spouse!?

Later Gerry joined the Red Cross as a staff member in the Mid-Western Red Cross Office, training instructors in small chapters across 13 states.  Liking what Gerry was doing, Kate became a Red Cross volunteer using her training as a health care professional to teach CPR and First Aid.  Kate also worked for a time as a caseworker in the Service to Military Families program of the Red Cross. After some years in the Mid-West, the family made their way to Washington D.C. Gerry became a Health and Safety Director setting up water safety training classes across the United States. He also worked for the Eastern Area of the American Red Cross before finally ending up working as an administrator for the American Red Cross with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). In this position, he was assigned to many International Disasters that were mostly in war zones. After several years of this stressful assignment, Gerry worked again stateside with the American Red Cross. This time his role was what he called a “fixer,” helping chapters who had some sort of issue and needed help to reach their full potential.

During the years, Gerry was with the National Red Cross in the Washington, D.C. area while Kate worked as a nurse. She and Gerry were raising their family. She also continued her education moving from LPN to RN. Kate worked for the apheresis unit of the Red Cross Blood Program. Later she joined the nursing staff at Walter Reed Hospital setting up and organizing their apheresis unit where she served as their chief nurse.

From Washington, D.C. their life adventures led them to Columbus, Ohio and then finally to Tennessee.  Gerry said in his many trips around the country, the pull to return to Tennessee was strong.  They loved the people and the countryside. Upon retirement, they found a life they could enjoy in East Tennessee.  Gerry tried several volunteer roles with the Tennessee Red Cross. He finally determined the role he enjoyed most was the one he was doing when he first became involved with the organization back in the 1960s and 1970s, which was teaching people lifesaving skills.

Today, Kate and Gerry are vital parts of providing services for the Red Cross. They jointly teach First Aid, CPR, Blood Borne Pathogen, and Water Safety skills on a regular basis (once or twice a month) in Newport, TN. People from Cocke County and surrounding counties take their classes that are taught at the Community Center. Kate also loves her work with Disaster Health Services. She uses her nursing skills to help in disasters both locally and across the country. She has deployed for three national disasters in recent months, including Hawaii, North Carolina, and Florida.

Many Cocke County residents, as well as the Red Cross organization in Northeast Tennessee, benefit from the years of experience this couple brings to our area.

When asked, Gerry gave the following advice to anyone just beginning to volunteer, “Jump in and look for something you like!  Be honest with the staff member or your supervisor. Let them know what you like and what you do not like about your assignments. This way you can stay involved and enjoy your experiences.”

There is always a need for additional volunteers with the local Red Cross.  You can work in a variety of positions. Training is available for disaster and non-disaster positions. For more information on volunteering and training, visit

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