Labor of Love: Alta Bates Summit Employee, 90, Celebrates 70 Years on the Job

Posted on Apr 5, 2016

Elena Griffing 70th anniversary

Elena Griffing says she wants to work forever.

Elena Griffing has been breaking records, charming everyone she meets and wearing stylish heels on the job at Alta Bates Summit for 70 years. Watch the video.

Elena was honored last week during Women’s History Month by more than 3,000 Sutter Health leaders in Sacramento.

“By pushing the boundaries of opportunity, Elena—and so many other influential women across the United States—shaped the destinies of future generations of women. I’m so thankful for their determination and drive,” said Sarah Krevans, president and CEO of Sutter Health. “And all across Sutter Health, nearly 250 female employees like Elena have dedicated 40-plus years of their careers to caring for patients and their families. Through fresh ideas, hard work and genuine compassion for others, they’ve made the world a better place. I’m proud to work beside them.”

Please don’t get the idea Elena’s retiring. She says, “Sutter Health has given me the opportunity to continue to do what I love. I want to work forever.”

Seventy years ago, when Nurse Alice Alta Miner Bates saw Elena in the halls of her small Berkeley hospital, she told Elena she should stop wearing her 3-inch heels because she might fall and would probably sue the hospital. Elena has never fallen and never sued.

Elena still flies down the halls of the medical center and has no intention of slowing down or retiring. She recounts this and other stories about the remarkable Miss Bates, who wore a starched white uniform and rounded daily on every patient in the then-112-bed hospital.

Elena Griffing and Chuck Prosper

Elena Griffing and Chuck Prosper, Alta Bates Summit CEO, at management symposium.

About Elena:

  • First day at Alta Bates Community Hospital in Berkeley: April 10, 1946, when she was 20.
  • She worked at the hospital with founder Alta Alice Miner Bates, R.N.
  • Born and raised in Berkeley. She attended John Muir Elementary, Willard Middle School and Berkeley High.
  • Elena has taken just four days of sick leave in her 70 years of employment.
  • Current job: Patient relations representative (4 days/week).
  • Has been very active in the Frank Sinatra Fan Club since
  • Is active in and judges for camellia societies throughout the area. (She raises camellias – one type is named after her father.)
  • She walks several miles daily and avoids junk food.

About 1946:

  • Average cost of a new house: $5,600
  • Average wage per year: $2,500
  • Cost of a gallon of gas: 15 cents
  • Average cost of a new car: $1,120
  • Bikinis went on sale in France
  • Tupperware was introduced


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *