By Trinity Martin
Eighty-two-year-old Lillian Gilbert, also known as Mozelle, has finally hung up her scrubs after 50 years of service in the medical field.
Born May 17, 1938, to Lattie Mae and Arthur James Gilbert in Morgan County, Gilbert says she was raised to work. At the age of 10, her mother taught her how to cook, clean, iron, wash, and care for children. She also worked on her grandmother’s farm doing chores from harvesting to tending animals.
When Gilbert was 13, she dropped out of school to marry and start a family. She had six kids, all three years apart.
“I had a passion for family,” she expressed. “My mother has six kids, I wanted six kids.”
Although Gilbert was committed to her family, she longed for something more for herself. “My dream was to become a nurse,” she said.
Growing up, she looked up to her aunt, Maggie Gilbert, dedicating herself to being a Registered Nurse. “I admired her,” she said.
That admiration inspired Gilbert to push through all the obstacles life threw her way and to fulfill her dream.
“When my last daughter, Monica, started first grade I went back and got my GED,” she said. Gilbert spent 21 years raising her children before starting her education. But once she lit that desire, it continued to burn for years to come.
Gilbert started out working at at McGeary’s nursing home where she trained on the job for two years before transferring to Morgan Memorial Hospital. There, she worked as a nurse’s aide for 13 years.
During Gilbert’s time at the hospital, she attended Walton County School of Nursing to receive Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) training. “I graduated valedictorian of my class,” Gilbert said.
Once she completed her training in 1979, she continued working at Morgan Memorial as an emergency nurse, rehab nurse, delivery nurse, newborn nurse, floor nurse, and recovery room nurse all while attending night school to take her core classes for her RN degree. Gilbert’s prior mentor at Morgan Memorial, Dr. Ken Lewis, said, “She was a multi-tasker before it was even a thing.”
Dr. Lewis guided Gilbert through the medical field from 1965 to 1987 at Morgan Memorial. “She was competent, likeable, and dedicated to patient care,” he said. “Anything I could tell you about her would be good.” Gilbert was able to shadow Dr. Lewis as she worked, and wanted to know everything she could about what he was doing. “I said I was a nosy nurse because I wanted to know how to do everything,” she explained.
After finishing her core classes in 1981, Gilbert started school at North Dekalb college, driving 300 miles a day to Decatur and back to Madison. She was accepted into the associate degree program there before hearing about a bridge program at Gordon College. She was able to transfer colleges and graduate with her degree within a year. She received her RN degree in 1987. Although Gilbert was able to balance being a full time LPN, student, and mother, it didn’t always come easy. “When I went to Gordon, it was hard,” Gilbert said.
But through it all, she dedicated her success to those who helped her achieve her goals.
While Gilbert was receiving her education at Gordon, her mother-in-law, Maudie Davis, helped to care for her children and her home. “My mother-in-law was my right hand,” she said.
Davis lived next door to Gilbert and her family in a house without water or a bathroom. “When she moved in that little house, she would come over there and take care of [the children] until I got off at 12 at night,” Gilbert said.
Her gratefulness extended to her own grandmother as well, Eva Richardson.
After Gilbert’s parents passed away at the ages of 60 and 61, her grandmother, known as “Big Ma,” was all she had left.
“She was my inspiration, my encourager, and everything I needed for support,” she said.
After Richardson’s health failed, Gilbert opened her home to her beloved grandmother to help care for her. Richardson passed away in 1995 at the age of 102.
But most importantly, Gilbert dedicated her success to God.
“I made a promise to Him I’d be the best nurse I could be,” she said. “…I prayed all the time.”
Through all the hardship, Gilbert possessed an extraordinary amount of ambition and determination. “I had a mission,” she declared.
Because of her persistence, Gilbert has been an inspiration for many. As a result of her influence, Gilbert’s daughter, Monica Williams, went to school to receive a RN degree like her mother.
“I know watching her is part of the reason I am who I am today,” Williams declared.
Williams says her mother not only inspired her to work hard, but she raised her that way as well. After Williams found out she was pregnant at a young age, Gilbert held her to the same accountability that shaped her to be the person she became.
“When I had the baby, Mom said to me, ‘You laid down to have the baby, now you have to raise it,’” Williams said.
Williams is grateful for her mother’s tough love during a turbulent time. “I thank God that she made me raise my daughter,” she said.
Also following in her mother’s footsteps is Gilbert’s other daughter, Linda Davis, who is to date a CNA.
“Mom instilled good values in us,” Davis said.
After both Davis and Gilbert were accepted into LPN school at the same time, Gilbert took a step back to let her daughter go first.
“She is a beautiful person inside and out,” Davis said.
Once Davis finished school and her mother was able to attend, she said her mother, “went on and never stopped.”
After leaving Morgan Memorial, Gilbert worked for three years at St. Mary’s Home Health Care, three years at Clarke County Health Department, one year at Georgia Pacific as a plant nurse, and worked as needed as an agency travel nurse. She also worked at Greene Point Health and Rehabilitation for three years before being hired to Family Life Enrichment Center, now known as High Shoals Health and Rehabilitation, where she retired this March.
Gilbert did not plan to retire until May, due to a weakened immune system from breast cancer, she had no choice because of the virus.
In 2011 Gilbert and her granddaughter, Jasmine Davis, were living together when Davis found a lump in her breast. She was then diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. “There was much devastation, hardship, pain, and tears,” Gilbert said.
To make matters worse, Gilbert herself was diagnosed with breast cancer as well, just six months after her granddaughter in May of 2012. “I was laying in the bed one night and I turned over and felt a knot under my arm,” she said.
Gilbert received a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy treatments. Her nursing career was put on hold so she could use all her energy to fight the cancer. Doctors removed 11 stage 3 cancerous lymph nodes out of 13 total from Gilbert’s body.
“I gained my strength through Jasmine,” she said. “…We both traveled the road of hardship, therapy, and pain together.”
After 12 months of chemotherapy and radiation, Gilbert was able to return back to work in 2013. She still stands in remission and said she praises God for her health.
Gilbert currently attends Calvary Baptist Church, where she has been a lifelong member. There she has donated her time to be a member of the choir and majestic choir, advisor of the youth department, president of mission department, president of pastors aid, a Sunday school teacher, the president of the decoration committee, president of nurses guild, and an event planner. The Rev. Hoke Smith said Gilbert is “a very extraordinary person.”
Gilbert has been under the leadership of Smith for the past 30 years. In that time, they have traveled to the Holy Land with one another, and worked to spread the word of God within their church, and community. Smith said, “If everyone in the world was like Mozelle, it would be peace.”
After years of struggle, Gilbert’s hard work has paid off. She has been able to travel on cruise ships, visited different states all across the U.S., and even attended the inauguration of former President Barack Obama.
Gilbert still possesses a passion for her family. Through the years they have grown, and to date she has six children, nine grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren with another on the way.
Gilbert has done what has seemed to be the impossible, from taking care of a family at the age of 13, receiving a degree while working full time with six children, to surviving breast cancer. Through it all, it is evident that Gilbert is more than what appears to the eye. The accomplishments this woman has achieved can confirm the amazing titles she possesses.
Lillian Mozelle Gilbert: Woman, Mother, Nurse, Extraordinaire.