The St. Joseph’s General Hospital staff and medical employees gathered for another reunion June 5, 2024 at Calvin Presbyterian Church.
More than 125 people attended to reminisce, with this being the eighth such gathering in 12 years minus a few years off for COVID.
Interviews included organizers Connie Russell and Diane Szewczyk, Joan Schiavone, Sandra Harkness and Les Wilkinson. Louise Gauthier spoke about the honour of being able to have the reunion and remembered those who had passed on recently with a minute of silence.
Below is the story published by Back in the Bay Magazine in the Summer 2023 edition after the previous reunion in May that spring, the first since the pandemic.
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‘Hugs and kisses’ at St. Joseph’s Hospital reunion

The best hospital cafeteria food ever, great Christmas parties and a unique work environment that retained staff for decades.
Those were among the memories shared in May when more than 100 former St. Joseph’s General Hospital staff and medical employees gathered for a reunion at Calvin Presbyterian Church.
“St Joseph’s Hospital was a very different place to work it was a wonderful place to work,” said Connie Russell, who graduated her nurse training at the hospital in 1968 and stayed for her career. “The Sisters respected us … they would come around and say, ‘You’re doing a great job!’ and everybody got along … of course there were issues, but you know, nothing like you hear about nowadays.”
Russell said there was a good mix of retirees from almost every department of the hospital, which amalgamated with the Civic Hospital in 1995 and then abandoned when the North Bay Regional Health Centre was built about 10 years later.
“There were people down there from dietary from housekeeping, nursing, RPM, everybody … this isn’t just for nurses, this is for the whole of our employees.”
Retired nurse Diane Szewczyk said they had to find people by telephone the first years but now they have social media such as Facebook and email lists to communicate.
She said they come to Calvin, located centrally in the city, partly because it has an elevator for those with mobility issues.
Szewczyk said one of the hot topics was the food available at the hospital.
“You know, the food was number one, they served the best food in the cafeteria,” she said, adding it attracted Civic Hospital taste buds and tummies. “A lot of the staff and a lot of the doctors would run those two blocks from the Civic Hospital over to St. Joe’s because they knew they’re going to have a better variety and better food.”
She recalled great parties.
“The sisters would put on a Christmas dinner, you know, and then the music and somebody’s playing and a full Christmas dinner for all the staff … yeah it was amazing pudding, with the some kind of a sauce on it. They never did tell us what was in the sauce.”
Russell said the nurses felt lucky to be there.
“I have a girlfriend who I keep in touch with who trained like I trained at St Joe’s too … and we keep saying we trained at the best hospital in the best time.”
Amalgamation signaled the end of the good times.
“In 1995, staff had to go from across two blocks over and they had just started working at this hospital and the staff had to go to that hospital and even though we were two blocks apart it was like they were Two Worlds Apart,” said Szewczyk, with Russell adding it had something to do with the turnover at the Civic.
“It was more of a transient staff that was there because back then it was a lot of the Air Force people, so all the Air Force nurses and staff would get a job at Civic and they would only be there for two or three years whereas we were at St Joseph for 20 and 25 years, 30 years.”
The gathering brought a lot of the retiree’s spirits up.
“It was amazing, people just came and it was like everybody’s hugging and kissing,” she said, which forced them to move the registration table downstairs so they wouldn’t take over the foyer.

See more coverage and photos at www.smalltowntimes.ca

By Dave Dale, Publisher

0:00
0:02 Connie Russell and Diane Szewczyk
0:32 Joan Schiavone
1:28 Sandra Harkness
2:06 Les Wilkinson
2:36 Birthday Announcements
3:38 Connie Russell and Diane Szewczyk
5:27 Moment of silence for those who passed led by Louise Gauthier
7:00 Joan Schiavone
8:11 Sandra Harkness
9:23 Les Wilkinson

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Life views from North Bay, Ontario, Canada, with snapshots of rural living, sports and politics mixed with podcasts by a long-time story teller. Small Town Times Productions is the name of Dave Dale’s  communication business, which publishes content for online and print applications. The flagship print publication is the Back in the Bay Magazine, which […]

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