Ottie Hinderliter has a long history of taking care of others. Born on Oct. 1, 1930, in Wiesbaden, Germany, she was still a girl when helping family members became a matter of life or death.
In the throes of World War II and under Nazi occupation, Hinderliter’s parents relied on her and her older brother to look out for their younger siblings, including asking the two to carry their baby brother’s crib, formula and other necessities from the family’s fifth-floor apartment down to a shelter when bombs fell from above.
Hinderliter survived those attacks, hunger, Nazi rule and even typhus and diptheria, most likely caused by rummaging through debris in the wake of bombings, searching for food, supplies and more. She and some of her relatives were nearly captured in one attempt at scavenging food. Given permission by a farmer to scour his already harvested fields for anything left behind, the family had to hide in nearby woods when a Nazi plane circled overhead three times.
During the war, she looked out for her siblings and family, neighbors and friends, and, at just 15 years old, even helped carry wounded soldiers into and out of a local hospital. Seventy-five years later, Hinderliter now lives in the United States, where she has continued in service of others for more than three decades.
After working in housekeeping at the former St. John’s Regional Medical Center from 1976 to 1992, Hinderliter, then 62, gave retirement a try.
“I stayed home three months,” she said, “that wasn’t for me.”
Hinderliter has volunteered at St. John’s and Mercy Hospital Joplin for the nearly three decades since. This week, Mercy helped Hinderliter celebrate her 90th birthday and decades of service to others — work that she doesn’t plan to stop any time soon — with a small recognition ceremony in the hospital.
“I hope I help people,” Hinderliter said. “You know, a little kindness goes a long way.”