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Audrey Wheaton, who turned 80 on Friday, is a resident lay chaplain at the Roanoke Rescue Mission. She has no plans to retire.
"I thrive on it," said Wheaton, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment at the Women and Children's Center. "One of my co-workers said, 'How long do you plan to work?' I said, 'Till I drop.' I can't see myself watching TV all the time."
"She has done many things in her life and is still one of the most active and energetic and positive people I know," said Rescue Mission director Joy Sylvester-Johnson.
Wheaton said her duties at the Rescue Mission include supervising and scheduling preachers for nightly chapel, working with people with substance abuse problems and being on call 24 hours a day.
"I'm everybody's grandma or mama. They call me Miss Audrey. I'm not skimpy with my hugs." Her nonworking hours are full as well. Wheaton is a deaconess and works in the Food Pantry at First Baptist Church-Gainsboro, and belongs to the Golden Age Club at High Street Baptist Church.
In her younger years she toured the country with her now-deceased husband, seeing 47 of the 48 contiguous states and Canada and Mexico, and was a guest on the "Regis and Kathy Lee" show in 1992, as part of a "Mom's Dream Come True" contest. The mother of two children and two stepchildren, she won a free ocean cruise.
"I've been blessed to be able to stay active for so many years," she said. "I get it from my mother. She loved people. I love people. I just get energy from being around people.
"I'd rather wear out than rust out."
She has been a voice in the African American community for more than two decades.
Audrey Wheaton wrote a popular column for the Roanoke Tribune, a newspaper that features the black community.
For many years, Wheaton's column was called 'Round Town.'
Wheaton wrote about everyday events in the Roanoke Valley and people's accomplishments.
"People want to hear the good news," said Wheaton.
Her column started in 1990. Her last one is this week.
"It's been a little depressing," said Wheaton.
Wheaton was recently diagnosed with a form of leukemia. She is currently taking chemotherapy and doesn't have the energy anymore to write the weekly column.
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