This is what Catherine Boyd did upon learning that the Persian Gulf War had begun. "I got so upset," the longtime Loudoun resident said. "I went and got my bucket and my mop . . . . I cleaned the kitchen, the powder room, the front entrance and the bathrooms. And I still was mad."
That vignette, in which Kitty Boyd worked as hard as she could and emerged unsatisfied, was a rare moment in a long and vigorous life. Boyd long ago established herself as a person who can get things done.
Most often, the beneficiary of Boyd's extensive volunteer work has been Loudoun Hospital Center, for which she has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars since she moved to the area from New York in the mid-1950s. But there also has been the George C. Marshall Home Fund Committee, the annual August Court Days and the Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society, of which she is president. In between, she has administered special onetime programs, including two seminars to help women invest and manage money.
"From the day she got in here, she has begun to get involved," said B. Powell Harrison, president of the Marshall Home Fund Committee. "She's not a great joiner, she doesn't throw herself into too many things . . . but those she gets into, she gets into wholeheartedly. And she's very effective."
Boyd, who became a widow three years ago, has seen her 70th birthday come and go and wishes to leave it at that. Yet she continues her volunteer work, often fitting in two or three meetings a day, and is a part-time employee at a Leesburg dress shop.
"To me, she is an inspiration," said Mary Hope Worley, owner of "My Lady's Shop," where Boyd works. "When I look at her, I feel I have a lot to look forward to."
Boyd began volunteering in Loudoun County in 1956, a year after she and her husband, Bill, moved into the farmhouse they built in Clark's Gap. It started, she said, because she couldn't say no. The first request was from members of Loudoun Hospital Center's ladies board, who asked Boyd to work on the annual hospital rummage sale.
"It wasn't anything I planned to do," Boyd said. "I told them at that time I knew nothing about hospitals. I had never done any volunteer work."
Thirty-five years later, she knows plenty. That first assignment in the rummage sale's toy department paved the way for a long relationship. In the years that followed, Boyd did everything at the hospital short of operating on patients.
She was a longtime rummage sale chairman, overseeing its growth from a small affair in downtown Leesburg to a sprawling weekend event at the 4-H Fairgrounds. She also has served for eight years on the hospital's board of trustees, raised money to build the hospital's long-term care center, presided over the Ladies Board and served on several committees.
"I don't know how she does it all," said Vernon Davis, vice president of the Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society. "She's involved in so many things other than the restoration board, yet she always seems to have time to give everything."
If she succeeded, Boyd said, it was because she had plenty of help and support and because she used good business sense. For instance, she initiated the use of sealed bids for the most valuable items at hospital auctions, reasoning that people would offer what they thought the item was worth rather than just trying to beat the competition.
"When you have something beautiful that somebody gives you, you should try to get the best for the hospital, and not just give it away," she said.
Boyd said she will always serve the hospital in some way, but her days of leading boards and major committees probably are over. She speaks fondly of the women who coached her along, saying it's her turn to assume that role now.
Before Boyd learned about volunteer work, she had extensive experience in the business world. At 18, she went to work as a secretary for a Manhattan company that manufactured and sold office machinery. There she met Bill Boyd, a sales manager who was 11 years her senior.
"I was just crazy about him from the beginning," she said.
The feeling was mutual, but because her family thought 18 was much too young, the couple waited five years to marry. Afterward, Boyd continued working, and soon landed a job at Shell Oil. She rose through the ranks to become executive secretary to the corporation's board of directors.
"It was a very exciting time because women at that point were not really included in the mechanics of a business," Boyd said. As a woman who was, she was treated with kid gloves. "When I finished the work I was doing, the guard would come and get me and escort me down the elevators and put me in a taxi," she said.
The Boyds, who were married 53 years and had no children, stayed in New York until 1955. Years earlier, they had explored Virginia and purchased 48 acres in Loudoun County. Together, they built their farmhouse, where Boyd still lives. She does all the housework herself and employs a teenager to look after the grounds.
For the past few years, her helpers have been the children of Michael McGath, principal of C.S. Monroe Vo-Tech Center. First she hired his son, then his daughter.
Boyd and her husband "were such wonderful adult influences on my children," McGath said. Boyd said she wouldn't think of leaving the place that is her home, where she can still feel her husband's spirit. "I'm still finding things all over the house, little notes that he left," she said, her blue eyes misting over. "He gave me such wonderful support."