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Member in the Spotlight: Alta Gross

In pondering what I wanted to say in the “Alta Gross” episode of Member in the Spotlight, I decided that the best way is to start at the beginning. I was born in Castine, ME on December 22, 1953. My parents had four boys before me, so of course it has been assumed I lived a princess life….well no, not completely…ok, maybe a bit. I had a fun childhood with lots of kids in the neighborhood playing outdoors and exploring life without fear of what was in the world.

As I fast forward to 1972, I graduated from George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. Next, attending the art program at the University of Maine in Augusta was tough, as I was a sheltered 18 year old. When the nude models appeared I was sure that this was NOT what I, or my father, had expected!

After working as a nurses’ aide at the nursing home in my town I decided it would be practical to become a nurse, and so I went to then Eastern Maine Vocational Technical Institute in Bangor during 1978 and became an LPN. I worked for about 30 years taking care of elderly people in various positions. I was a charge nurse, manager of a 36 bed assisted living center and for the last seven years of nursing I did private duty care for a couple in Blue Hill in the summer and Vero Beach, Florida in the winter.

In 1993, I took a two month LOA from my nursing job and with a friend of mine worked aboard the Maine Maritime Academy training ship while on its European cruise. No, not as a nurse! I worked in the galley doing everything from serving food, working in the deli, washing dishes and scrubbing floors. It was difficult, hot and slippery as the ship hit very rough seas. We visited Gibraltar, Oslo, England, and the Azores. It was awesome! So, the next year I enrolled in a two year program at MMA and it was the most challenging and exhilarating two years of my life. Day after day I was jumping in the water or studying physics, diesel mechanics, marketing, boat construction or something equally challenging. I loved it!! Unfortunately, in the first few months of my classes both my mother and my 46 year old brother suffered strokes. My mother recovered quite well, but my brother did not. He passed away 10 years later after very difficult years. Please indulge me and allow me to tell you that this is the most painful event in my life. I tried to make his life better….I could not in any significant way.

At age 49 I married a man I had been with for many years. He was a merchant seaman who worked as an engineer and communications officer. He was away for 4 months at a time. As the story goes it was the best of times and worst of times. The marriage ended in disappointment. I don’t really have anything more to say except I don’t plan to do THAT again.

In 2009 my private duty job ended when both of the couple had passed away and I spent several months with my mother who also passed away. I did not want to go back to nursing but had realized that I have a natural tendency toward care giving.

It is difficult to make a change in your late 50’s. A cousin my age was taking a massage therapy class. That was not for me. I had seen June Atherton for reflexology not knowing anything about it. All I knew was my feet always hurt and this helped me.

I enrolled in Connie Hubley’s “Reflections, etc.” in Winthrop. She encouraged me to take an online Anatomy and Physiology class prior to starting her program. It was good advice and very helpful, even with my nursing background. I received my certification in hand and foot reflexology in May 2011. I kept going and received my ARCB certification in April 2013. I wanted to do this in part for the challenge while I was in the learning/studying mode and because I thought that this may be a requirement of licensing later on. I in no way feel that any test trumps experience. However, a test is sometimes the way we are evaluated.

I am not doing a lot of reflexology right now. One day a week I have a space at Parker Ridge Retirement Community in Blue Hill. I do both residents and others. I have some elderly clients that LOVE reflexology and of course this is a good fit for me because elderly people are my favorite demographic of people. I do foot reflexology and have clients that depend on me for comfort and relaxation. I am not good at promoting myself, so I have taken GREAT pleasure in doing reflexology at events such as Tri-for-Cure and The Living with Cancer conference in Bar Harbor which I have done for a few years. It is just a pleasure for me to see people experience reflexology.

I do several other jobs as well. I organize and computerize medical records for a nurse consultant who reviews records for the US Department of Justice. I put the records together to make them easier to review. I also clean a LOT of people’s houses and could do it 24/7 if I wished….not a wish I have far.

I still have a STRONG artsy side to my personality and love making things. A few years ago I made an 8 foot tall paper mache puppet named Miss Penobscot that I walked in the town parade. I like working around my house improving it and making it unique. If I was younger I would become an interior designer.

I attended my first MCR meeting after just my first weekend in reflexology school. Connie told me the meeting was in Ellsworth and encouraged me to attend. I enjoyed the meeting and the feeling of friendship and mutual purpose and I was excited to belong. I found the same excitement in the conferences I attended in Orlando and Santa Fe.

I have strong hopes that reflexologists will be licensed in Maine someday. While I am not sure how much this will actually affect me and my career, I believe it is important to pursue for future reflexologists. I am a strong believer that experience is an important part of learning, maybe the most important part. In fact the experience of the members of MCR was one of the enticements for me to join. However, I do believe that in these times it is important to distinguish those who have had significant training to hold a license that states “I AM A REFLEXOLOGIST!” Alta Gross

Interviewed and edited by Wendy Decker, Newsletter reporter


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