Albany couple serves together in retirement

8/3/2014

Nancy and Robert “Buff” Askey spent their careers serving others.

A former cardiac nurse, Nancy committed much of her life to helping heal hearts.

Buff dedicated 44 years to the armed forces, 20 years as an active-duty Marine and another 24 as a civil servant.

Though retired, the couple still spends their days serving and helping those in need, leading active lives that center around their volunteer work.

Members of Albany First United Methodist Church, they credit their servant spirits to their faith and the time they spent in the military.

“I think that our time in the military helped us see the need in helping others,” Nancy said. “You’re away from family and have to depend on each other and friends.”

Nearly every week Nancy can be found at Albany’s Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, where she was recently named the recipient of the 2013 Lillian B. Allison Volunteer of the Year Award.

She serves as president of the hospital’s Mended Hearts chapter, a cardiac support group for heart disease patients, their families and caregivers. Each week she spends hours visiting and talking with cardiac patients, supporting them and walking with them through their crises.

A sewing and crochet enthusiast, Nancy makes side-rail bags for hospital patients and is involved in Albany First UMC’s Knit One, Pray Too ministry. Each Wednesday evening she and others gather to sew, crochet and knit special prayer shawls, baby blankets, baby hats, and more.   

“We crochet prayer shawls for those who are acutely ill, suffering through cancer or going through chemotherapy,” Nancy said. “With each one we add a card that says, ‘This prayer shawl is a symbol of our prayers for you. Every stitch contains a special prayer that God will send his peace to you and keep you in his care.’”

Some prayer shawl recipients are so moved by the gifts that they are included in caskets and among other special items when the recipient dies.

“You don’t realize how much you touch them,” she said.

She also coordinated the making of more than 100 dresses that were taken to Uganda and given to girls attending Humble School. Nancy made about 80 herself.

“That was another really rewarding thing we could do,” Nancy said. “People in the church donated material and helped with them; it was fun.”

Taught the value of service at a young age – he was raised at the Milton Hershey Academy and had a Presbyterian minister grandfather – Buff continues to give back.

When he retired 11 years ago he made a commitment to volunteer one day each week. Since then, Buff has spent every Monday serving at a local Alzheimer’s day care center. He’s also passionate about serving through mission and disaster relief trips and has been on more than a dozen, several with Nancy.

“We wanted to give back … and help others by way of mission work,” Nancy said. “We just feel closer to Christ when we do things for others.”