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Margaret Hadley shows off a few of the hats that have won her widespread notoriety with patients as “The Hat Lady” at Outpatient Rehabilitation Services.

TUPELO, Miss.-When people say Margaret Hadley wears many different hats at work, they mean it literally.

Hadley, who will celebrate her 35th anniversary at NMMC in May, has close to 25 hats she dons for various holidays and special occasions. As a receptionist/scheduler for NMMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services at Longtown Medical Park, she is often the first to greet patients upon arrival.

Her hat “habit” started about five years ago when she put on a Christmas hat during the holidays and it was a big hit. “They say my hat makes them smile or my hat helps them make it through therapy,” Hadley said. “I just want the patients to smile.”

“They come in and expect Margaret to be smiling, and if Margaret isn’t smiling, the patients want to know why,” added co-worker Ruthlyn Goree, who has been Hadley’s best friend since high school and has worked alongside her at Outpatient Rehab for the last 18 years. “They don’t mind coming here because they get to see Margaret first thing. If she isn’t here for some reason, they are really disappointed.”

Now, patients and coworkers get in on the action-making or bringing her hats to wear. She has to start celebrating holidays early just to fit them all in. One patient brought Hadley an antique hat that had belonged to her mother. “She told me she would feel honored if I would wear her mother’s hat for Mother’s Day,” she said, “so of course I wore it all day at work that Friday before.”

She gave her green and white striped Dr. Seuss hat to a Foot Center patient who was battling cancer. “She had lost her hair,” Hadley said. “She said the hat would help other cancer patients smile when she wore it to get her chemotherapy.”

While most of her hats have a holiday theme, some are appropriate anytime. “Sometimes I wear them just because or if someone asks me to,” she said. “Sometimes God puts it on my heart. He kind of knows who needs that hat today.”

Hadley doesn’t stop with hats-she’ll do almost anything for her patients. “The other day I sang an opera birthday song,” she said, “and once I did rap and country together. Nobody else can do that.”

“And sang it loud with no shame,” Goree added. “She’s a true clown.”

Hadley says she gets her personality from her mother, “but I take it to another level.” Sometimes she takes pictures and sends them to her three grandchildren-ages 12, 10 and 7-who just shake their heads at their “Dranny’s” antics.

Hadley’s coworkers-especially Goree, Connie Credille and Lydia Thomas-pour lots of creativity into fashioning her hats, but she doesn’t mind. “They make me look really foolish,” she said, with a laugh. “The Lord reminds me that it’s not about me, but it’s about making someone smile or helping someone.”

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