Canmore says goodbye to its favourite public health nurse
By: Rob Alexander
| Posted: Thursday, Jul 12, 2012 06:00 am
Have you made a difference in the life of a child?
That was one of the guiding questions for Canmore’s first and favourite public health nurse, Maureen Brass, and she lived her life accordingly, even if Canmore’s children didn’t immediately love her – she did, after all, give needles, lots and lots of needles.
But her caring, generous and kind nature, and her dedication to the health and welfare of Canmore residents, especially its children, won everyone over, even those kids whose first experience with Brass was a needle in the arm.
And many of those kids, along with Brass’s family and many friends, were at Creekside Hall at the Canmore Seniors’ Centre on Tuesday (July 10) to say goodbye.
Maureen passed away on June 28 while visiting her twin sons, Elliot and Cameron, in Vancouver and Squamish, B.C.
“It saddens our hearts,” said Don Friesen, who led Maureen’s memorial service Tuesday. “She is sadly missed by her family absolutely, but also by friends and acquaintances she made all over the world. Maureen will be sadly, sadly missed.
“The memories are there. These memories we will cherish forever.”
Maureen arrived in Canmore in 1973, by way of Toronto, Calgary, the Arctic and Morley, after accepting a job to help the Mountain View Health Unit, now Headwaters Health Authority, establish a health unit in Canmore.
That office opened in 1974 and Maureen quickly established a reputation as a nurse and a person who was kind, compassionate, caring and humour-filled and who, through her work, made the community a better place to live.
Maureen was born on The Orkney Islands of Scotland, Elliott explained to everyone gathered in the sweltering hall, in a cottage with no running water and no power. She moved to the Scottish mainland at the age of three, but The Orkneys would remain a powerful force for her throughout her life.
At 16, she began her nurse’s training in Aberdeen, Scotland. After completing her training, Brass moved to Glasgow to train as a midwife and nurse practitioner.
Yearning for adventure, Elliot said Maureen moved to Toronto in 1968. She was there for six months before moving to Calgary with a friend and, while looking for work, they saw a job posting for the Northwest Territories. Without even fully understanding where they were headed, they headed north.
“She honestly thought she was going to work in northern Alberta,” Elliot said.
Instead, Brass landed in Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. After a year there, she returned to Alberta, eventually finding work at Foothills Hospital before taking a position with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation at the Morley health clinic.
Finally, from Morley she found her way to Canmore where, for 35 years, she stayed put.
“The mountains were not the reason she spent so much time in Canmore,” Elliot said, adding guests would come to visit and comment on the natural beauty of the Bow Valley to which Maureen would respond, ‘I don’t like the mountains. They almost make me claustrophobic’.
“What my mom loved about Canmore was the people. She loved Grassi Lakes. Why? Because she saw Lawrence (Grassi) there. One of her great friends and kindred spirits was Lizzie Rummel.”
Throughout her time in Canmore, Maureen was also a tireless volunteer, which in part helped her to be recognized in 1995 with the Governor General’s Award for being an outstanding Canadian.
Finally retiring from nursing in 1990, she opened her bed and breakfast, A Touch of Brass.
“And at the Touch of Brass, the kettle was always on,” Elliot said. “She made sure when you arrived you were loved and welcomed, but also you knew the rules of the house.”
She sold that house and moved to a condo in Dead Man’s Flats before moving on to Sorrento, B.C. in the Shuswap where, Elliot said, “we knew she had found her little piece of heaven.”
And like she did in Canmore, Brass quickly became a Sorrento fixture, leaving that community better for knowing her.
“If she wanted something done, she got it done. She was probably one of the most honest people we could have known. She believed it took a village to raise a child. I want you boys to know, you young men,” said family friend Pam Barrett, addressing Elliot and Cameron, “to know you will always have our love. It is a small thing that we can give back to you of what your mother gave us over the years.”
And Maureen gave. If anything can be said about Maureen, she gave, everything she had and everything she could. As one of Maureen’s guiding quotes goes: “You are judged by the difference you make in the life of a child.”
One person, such as Maureen, can make a great difference, Friesen said, even if it is over 35 years, five years or just one year.
“It is what you do,” he said.
“How can you perpetuate your life? It is pouring your life into a child and that is what Maureen did and she has been a shinning example here.
“And yes you may drive a fancy car, you may live in a big house, and that is OK, but my question today is: will you make a difference in the life of a child? Our friend Maureen did.”