‘Day of My Life’, Says Miss I. Russell
Miss I. Russell, who is retiring as matron of the Hastings Memorial Hospital, spent the day of her life at a reunion of former sisters, nurses and aides who met to honour her on Saturday.
Throughout Saturday Miss Russell reiterated that the Reunion was the loveliest incident in her life.
Inevitably there was a strong current of reminiscence as visitors pursued will o’ the wisp memories, but true to character Miss Russell underplayed her role in the story of the hospital.
When she made such comments as “anything you say about me is not true… I haven’t done anything more than anyone else,” nurses talked her down with laughter and applause.
The reunion was arranged at short notice, but the response – two hundred former trainees and aids – was gratifying. They came from such distant centres as Christchurch and Whangarei.
Ex-nurses met again the hospital founder, Dr. H. M. Wilson, who wore his glasses on his forehead and in a welcoming speech said, “I remember the day…” to their accompanying laughter.
The superintendent, Dr. L. W. Broughton, welcomed visitors in the language of his kinsmen, “Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.”
This opening ceremony was presided over by Sister M. Heald.
Around the walls of Harding Hall, where the main functions were held, were shields bearing the story of the hospital, the new and old training syllabus, and the names of students of the general and maternity classes since early days.
These plaques telescoped the years enabling visitors, when they toured the hospital and nurses’ home on Saturday morning to walk the wards with the old feeling of familiarity.
During the morning, too, photographs were taken of past classes – incomplete groups because only a portion of each class was present at the reunion. Dr. Wilson posed with seven members of the original general training school. They were Grace Burgess (Mrs. Clemo), Queenie Greenﬁeld (Mrs. Winter), Nancy Couch, Elsie Leipst, Joyce Pedersen (Mrs. Bell), Margaret Walker (Mrs. Watkinson) and Joan Urquhart (Mrs. Weston).
A sightseeing tour followed by afternoon tea in Owen Home occupied the afternoon, after which visitors separated until the evening functions.
This began with a dinner at which Miss Russell was guest of honour and ended with a social and presentation.
Proud tributes were paid to Miss Russell by Mrs. G. Collinge, Auckland (early eighteen months maternity trainee), and Mrs. G. Clemo Whangarei (original general trainee), speaking on behalf of former nurses. They thanked her for her inﬂuence in training days and expressed sadness that by her retirement they were loosing the last link with their training school.
Replying to the toast Miss Russell said she felt the tributes were undeserved. She had been particularly blessed with the quality of her staff. “Nor must you say you have lost touch with the hospital when I leave,” she said.
A toast to absent friends was proposed by a former nurse aid, Miss J. Kellaher, Hastings, and another, to the future of the hospital, by the president of the Student Nurses’ Association, Nurse N. Pope. Earlier the association’s secretary, Nurse M. Comrie had presented Miss Russell with ﬂowers on behalf of the gathering.
Sister E. Leipst was toastmaster.
The social opened with the Nurses’ Anthem and two songs sung by the Nurses’ Choir. A movie ﬁlm of the hospital, taken by Sister Mackay, was shown. It is a brief record of the hospital since its inception and is to be. given to Miss Russell. Piano accordion duets were played by Nurses Paton and Howell, and a pageant of nursing, presented by new trainees, was produced by Sister H. Tosswill.
Past sisters, nurses and aids presented Miss Russell with a dinnerset, iron and cheque – and the presentation ceremony followed. With repetition tributes lost none of their sincerity; again Miss Russell deprecated her role; and again the applause was sustained. The presentation was made by Mrs. Johansen, Waipawa, formerly Sister J. Pitcaithly, who was a sister at the hospital when it became a training school, and Mrs. M Watkinson (Sister Walker) an early trainee.
Yesterday visitors attended church services arranged in conjunction with the annual Florence Nightingale services.
The reunion was the idea of Sister G. Pattullo. She was assisted by an organising committee which included Sister Leipst as secretary and Sister A. Hastings as treasurer.
For some weeks they had devoted their spare time to organising it, but their efforts were rewarded by Miss Russell’s repeated comment on Saturday, “This has been a day of absolute joy.”