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St. Joseph's nursing program commemorates 115th birthday (5 photos)

The program - which ran from 1904 to 1970 - has a rich history that many of its living alumni were proud to remember.

THUNDER BAY - Few things have as rich a history as nursing does in Thunder Bay.

In light of Nurses Week, being celebrated across Ontario from May 6-10, St. Joseph’s Care Group commemorated its nursing program which turned 115 years old on Wednesday.

“St. Joseph’s is always near and dear to my heart,” said Doris Rossi, a graduate of St. Joseph’s school of nursing in 1965.

In honour of the anniversary, St. Joseph’s Care Group hosted many of their former graduates on Wednesday to unveil three plaques acknowledging the program’s history, and a terrazzo crest saved from the now-demolished residence which has been preserved for over 60 years.

“You form a great bond with your classmates. Everybody when they still talk about it, they’re so proud to say they were graduates from this school,” Rossi said.

Rossi, who spent three years living in the school’s residence said the school’s crest holds a special place in the collective memory of the nursing students.

Designed by a nursing student at the request Sister Margaret Smith, St. Joseph’s CEO Tracy Buckler said the crest was preserved and stored for many years, and finally included in the main entrance upon the completion of the hospital’s east wing.

“It was hard to take out. Terrazzo can crack and all kinds of things… so we took great care in making sure we kept it in tact,” Buckler said.

The careful consideration of the crest was a gesture greatly appreciated by Rossi.

“Tracy [Buckler] always promised that crest would be installed somewhere. So it brings me great joy to see it in the main entrance of the hospital.”

The person in charge of creating the crest back in 1954 was also on hand for the ceremony.

Tile and marble worker Gerry Della Mattia was overwhelmed with emotion when he was asked to attend.

“I think it’s fantastic that they took it out of the old building and saved it. I just can’t believe that,” he said.

Della Mattia said he remembers spending many weeks in his father’s garage completing the crest. He was surprised to learn it was preserved, but says St. Joseph’s had a surprise of their own when they contacted him.

“I’ve done other crests and they tried to take them out of the concrete and they just disintegrated,” he said. “They were surprised there was someone still alive that made [the crest]. I’m surprised I’m alive too!”

The three plaques - located beside the crest at the main entrance - tell the story of the development and history of the nursing school. Over 66 years, 845 nurses graduated from the program.

“It’s just important to know your roots and history so you can go forward in a positive way,” Buckler said.

Michael Charlebois

About the Author: Michael Charlebois

Michael Charlebois was born and raised in Thunder Bay, where he attended St. Patrick High School and graduated in 2015. He attends Carleton University in Ottawa where he studies journalism.
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