BANFF – Shirley Pearson has been the face of the acute care unit at the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital for the past 56 years.
Her first day on the job was Sept. 8, 1963 in the old hospital on Spray Avenue and the last day for the 81-year-old unit clerk is this coming Friday (Nov. 1).
“I had a young family and at that time and we were trying to pay off a family car, so I came for the paycheque, which was $1 an hour,” she said. “But I stayed for the people; so many good people here.”
A community retirement celebration is planned for Pearson on Nov. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Banff Royal Canadian Legion.
With mixed emotions about her retirement, Pearson decided the time just felt right.
“I wasn’t really born in the computer era and I’ve managed, with some stress level, to integrate myself with the systems that we have now, but this coming spring they’re going to a total computer system,” she said.
“I think there’s an elimination of charts and papers and everything, and I’m thinking it’s time that I went while people still think that I’m somewhat smart,” she said with a chuckle.
With her sense of humour and wealth of knowledge, Pearson will be missed by her co-workers.
“It’s going to be a real loss. She has touched the lives of more people than I can possibly imagine,” said Nina Livesley, manager of acute care and long-term care.
“She comes to work every day with a smile on her face. She’s never disgruntled, things just slide off and that really helps the staff morale, and makes the day more enjoyable.”
With her love of music and ability to play several instruments, Pearson provided entertainment for the long-term care unit.
“She also has composed songs for staff throughout the years when they left or for special occasions,” said Livesley.
“Every function, whether it’s Christmas or Easter or another special occasion, she and the choir could get together and do a sing-a-long for St. Martha’s [long-term care unit].”
To replace Pearson, the hospital posted her position and interviewed several applicants.
In the end, her daughter Carol Pearson got the job.
“I am very relieved; she would be the natural person,” said Shirley, noting her daughter has filled in for her over the past four-and-half-years when needed.
Pearson said one of the biggest changes in her time at Mineral Springs Hospital was when the Sisters of Saint Martha gifted the hospital to the community. The last remaining nuns left the hospital in 1997.
She’s still in touch with Sister Theresa, a 92-year-old nun living in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, writing each other letters.
“She worked with me the very first year and she only recently retired,” said Pearson. “Those were good times.”
Even though she is retiring, Pearson will still be seen around the halls of the hospital as a volunteer and singing with the choir.
She’s not sure yet what she’ll do with the rest of her spare time, but will miss her job.
“It was always interesting, never knowing what’s going to happen; every day is a different day,” she said.
“You could have a disaster, you could have a bunch of people coming off a bus with some foreign illness, or you can have six to 10 add-ons for surgical.”
Funnily enough, Pearson never chose this as a career, but not once thought about leaving to do something different.
“I just fell into it. The person had finished work and they didn’t have anybody else. They said to me, ‘can you type?’ and that was it, that was my interview and all the qualifications I needed,” she said.
“I don’t think I’d be able to get my job if I were to apply for it now,” she added, with a laugh.