By Bruce Stambaugh
Mil Agnor is returning to Romania, but not to continue her Peace Corps service.
“I wanted to go back to say goodbye and thank you,” Agnor said.
The gregarious Agnor had an unexpected change of plans. Earlier this year during an annual physical exam, the doctor found something she didn’t like.
The Peace Corps flew Agnor back to the United States via Medevac. She underwent a thorough exam and was diagnosed with a bladder cancer.
That changed everything for the adventuresome Agnor.
“When the Peace Corps flies you back for medical reasons, you have 45 days to get things in order,” Agnor explained. “If you can’t, your term is completed.”
That is exactly the scenario that played out for Agnor. She was unable though not unwilling to complete her two-year term. She was officially discharged from the Peace Corps August 3.
“I had my things all packed up before I had to leave,” Agnor said, “because I planned on moving to another house, not returning to Ohio.” The ever-dedicated Agnor knew she had to go back to Romania for more than her belongings.
“Life is all about relationships,” Agnor said. Though her volunteering was cut short, she made wonderful friends in the school and community of Palanca. Agnor needs this trip as much for them as for herself.
Agnor taught conversational English to 184 students in grades three through eight.
“These students live in the poorest part of Romania,” Agnor said. She said otherwise they would have very little exposure to the English language.
“The kids there have no organized activities,” she said. “We started after school programs and camps for them.”
When asked about someone her age going into the Peace Corps, Agnor just smiled and said, “I want to be remembered for something other than my age.”
Agnor said the Peace Corps actually markets to older people who have finished careers. Agnor had a quilting business in Holmes County for 28 years.
“I always admired the Amish in how they lived their lives,” Agnor said. She worked with several Amish women over the years to create custom quilts.
Agnor said she will spend two weeks in Romania bidding farewell and saying thanks. She will also do some traveling prior to returning to her new home in Stow, Ohio. Her son, Ross, lives in nearby Hudson.
“My intention was to at some point live close to him,” Agnor said. “It just got speeded up a bit.”
Agnor found what she called “a wonderful house at the end of a cul-de-sac.”
“There are lots of trees,” she said. “I have birdfeeders out, and I get to watch a Cooper’s Hawk chase a fox squirrel.”
Agnor said the surgery to remove the cancer was a success and that, other than losing some weight, she has no side effects from the immunotherapy treatments. She said she gets the treatments every six weeks initially, then every month for a year. After that, she will be monitored for the rest of her life.
The spunky senior made it clear that she has had no discomfort. Agnor said her situation is quite manageable and that she feels very fortunate and thankful that the Peace Corps doctors caught her cancer in an early stage.
“I have some good years yet,” she said. When she returns to Ohio at the end of the month, Agnor said she plans on volunteering at a library or in a park system.
“I love to sing,” she said, “so I’ll probably join a church choir, too.”
Volunteering is nothing new for Agnor. While in Millersburg, she served many years with the Holmes County Habitat for Humanity.
For now, Agnor will focus on revisiting her friends in Romania.
“I want to see the science lab that was started while I was there,” she said.
No doubt Agnor’s brief reunion with her former students and staff will be an emotional one. Agnor said the students made a quilt for her when they learned of her illness. The quilt had a cutout of each of their handprints on it.
There can also be no doubt that the effervescent Agnor will have lots to share about her goodbye tour of Romania once she returns home. That, of course, will be another exciting story in the energetic Agnor’s life.