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Publication: Times&Transcript, Moncton, NB add link
Issue: 21 March 2011
Title: Retired nurse will soon celebrate her 102nd birthday
Web Link: link

Ethel Shaw of Moncton, who will be celebrating her 102nd birthday on March 31, knew she wanted to be a nurse at an early age.


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Ethel Shaw will turn 102 on March 31. Here Ethel holds a photo of her when she graduated from nursing school in 1932.

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Ethel Shaw will turn 102 on March 31. Here is a photo of Ethel when she graduated from nursing school in 1932.

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Ethel Shaw will turn 102 on March 31.

She said her older sister Bertha had become a nurse and their aunt Eliza Sansom was a nurse.

"So, I knew I wanted to be a nurse from the time I was a little girl," said Ethel who resides at Serenacare on Briarlea Drive in Moncton. "And I never regretted the decision," she said.

She was born and raised in Boiestown. She said the small Miramichi community did not have a school then that had Grade 9, so she had to be tutored at home by a school teacher when she reached that grade.

When she turned 16 years old, Ethel went to the Moncton Hospital School of Nursing where she graduated three years later with her registered nursing degree. She then went to Dalhousie University and got a degree in public health nursing.

She went on from there to become a nurse at the Deaconess Hospital in Boston. But she soon returned to New Brunswick.

"I had to leave for home because my mother was ill," she said.

While she was back home looking after her mother, Ethel said she received a job offer from Alena McMaster (the namesake for the A. J. McMaster School of Nursing). She said the job was at the TB (tuberculosis) and RD (respiratory disease) Clinic in Moncton.

She said tuberculosis was a major disease in those days and resulted in many deaths. "At the time I took the job, there was a major outbreak of TB in northern New Brunswick and Quebec," said Ethel.

She had high praise for McMaster. "She (McMaster) was strict but also very fair and a very kind person.

"She was a good teacher. She worked with a lot of nurses over the years."

And it was while Ethel was in charge of the clinic that she met her husband-to-be Gordon Shaw during a social event sponsored by The Moncton Hospital.

She said he was employed with Domcar Chemical in Moncton when they met, and remained with the company through to his retirement.

And Ethel continued to manage the clinic, located on Connaught Avenue, right through until she retired at the age of 67. Gordon passed away just a few years ago.

But the building went from being a tuberculosis and respiratory disease facility to a clinic working with extended care patients. The clinic was in the latter capacity during most the time that Ethel was there, said a spokesman for The Moncton Hospital.

The facility, which was associated with The Moncton Hospital, became known as The Annex and continued well past Ethel's retirement. The Annex was finally closed when the Joyce Wing was added to the hospital.

Although many nurses will remember their first patient, Ethel had the unique experience of becoming a life-time friend with her first patient.

She said her inaugural patient was Erma Horseman. "I looked after her the day I started training. We went on to become good friends for many years," said Ethel.

She noted that Erma passed away just recently.

Among Ethel's early memories is the First World War, being five years old when the war began.

She remembers many young men in the Boiestown area being away fighting overseas. She said her uncle, Albert McClusky, was among those killed in that war.

Meanwhile, her daughter Susan Shaw carried on the family tradition by also becoming a nurse. She said Susan worked for the provincial government in Ontario as a nurse and currently resides in Allison, Ont.

Ethel said she and Gordon had a cottage for many years in the Shediac area. She said Susan plans on converting it into a year-round home and moving back to New Brunswick.

Ethel got to see her daughter a few days ago, she said, adding Susan will probably be back to see her on her birthday.

Susan has two children. Ethel said her two grandchildren are - Debbie in Germany and Heather in Alberta. And each of them has a child, making Ethel a great-grandmother.

If she were starting over, again, would she still have chosen a career in nursing?

"I would definitely do it, again," Ethel said without hesitation.

"With all the new equipment and changes over the years, I would have start learning again," she said. "But it would be well worth it. Nursing is a good career."