BIO Index

Telle Cantrell


Bittersweet and sort of traumatic for a senior in high school who has gone to school with classmates for many years, and is now missing prom, missing my friends, and especially not getting to go through graduation exercises with those classmates, as I moved from my hometown of Lexington, KY in February of 1961. I then had to start all over again as I was now a student at SHS. I will get to walk with the Sarasota Class but it just is not the same, but one has to move on. I did not get to know many of my classmates very well but after reading the bios and seeing the names so many of the faces come back into mind.

So lets see what the almost 50 years has been like for me. Immediately after graduating (I think a week) I went to work for Sarasota Memorial Hospital in the Medical Records Department working the 3:00 to midnight shift. Not very exciting for a young girl just out of school. As you know back then Sarasota rolled up the carpet at 9:00 PM. Well about three months into that I heard of a doctor's office that needed help. I applied and he hired me. Wow this was my big moment no more night shifts plus he was going to start me at $45.00 a week. (Would any of us consider working for that now?) And I guess that was the start as I have been in the medical field ever since then. I worked for some of the best and most well respected physicians in Sarasota over the years.

Around 1976 VoTech started a class for students to learn Medical Assisting. After graduating they would be able to take a national certification exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant. I wanted that title but didn't see how I could attend classes during the day and work at the same time. So I wrote to the National Board of American Association of Medical Assistants in Chicago and ask if I could take the exam. They had never had anyone ask to do this without going hrough the classes. I am sure they were a little perplexed at my request. I kept hounding them until they finally gave in deciding what did they have to lose. I would either pass the exam and earn my CMA or they would have my exam fees and that would be the end that. Much to their surprise I PASSED, so now I was a CMA. AAMA also offered two other Certifications I could add to the CMA which were the A (Administrative and C (Clinical). I decided to sit for both of them as well and again passed. So all of the years my career has been in or around healthcare, from being the Health Services Director at Senior Friendship center in Sarasota, to Senior Lead Instructor teaching what else but Medical Assisting. Believe it or not I am still at it as the Practice Administrator for a Pediatric practice. I sometimes think retiring would be nice but I know after a few weeks I would be bored. After all these years I have kept my CMA certification up to date with a continuing education classes and have added a few more to the alphabet soup. I guess I am a little proud of what I have accomplished, because I did it all by myself with God's help.

In early 2001 People to People ask 100 CMA's from across the US to travel to China and explain how Medical Assistants could enhance healthcare there. We were all set to go and 911 happened with only a few weeks left before our departure time. 78 backed out as they were afraid to travel, but the 22 that were left decided to go anyway. It was a super trip and security was at its best. I have also been fortunate to travel to Thailand, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Italy, and a very small area of France. So in my next life I will leave the health care field and become a travel guide.

In the meantime I met my husband Allan who is my senior by 9 years and we married in June of 1965. Allan was a masonry contractor and built many homes, offices and different buildings in Sarasota and surrounding vicinity. October of 1966 our daughter Nanci was born. She graduated from Riverview and went to FSU graduating with a Masters of Social work. She teaches at the college here and is a founding director of Willow House (formerly Southern Living at Home).

Allan and I have two super neat grandchildren: Walker 13 and Madison 11. We are lucky as they live just 10 miles from us. . We remained in Sarasota until 1995 when Allan decided to retire to a cooler climate. We ended up in the Mooresville (Lake Norman) area of NC. We are just 30 minutes from Charlotte. The beaches are to our east and the mountains to the west, and the wonderful change of seasons year round, we are blessed with good health, and our daughter and grandkids close by. I am not sure I could ask for more. This is what the last 50 years has given me.

Looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting new ones in May. This time will not be bittersweet as I realize now how lucky I am getting to attend two- 50th. Class reunions, one with the my actual graduating class of Bryan Station Senior High and the other with Sarasota High School who so graciously allowed me to be a part of the Graduating Class of 1961.

Mary Letelle (Telle) Cantrell Stafford