A retirement over 50 years in the making

She used to keep detailed logs of all hospital births and would spend hours writing out birth certificates in calligraphy as a special memento for families.

While she’s seen many changes over her 56 years as a clerk at Banff Mineral Springs Hospital, Shirley Pearson’s love for her job and people has stayed constant. After more than five decades of full-time service, Shirley is retiring on Nov. 1.

She is 81 years old.

“When you like what you do, it doesn’t really feel like you’re working,” says Shirley, unit clerk at the Banff hospital. “I like my job and I always look forward to working with the staff and patients every day.”

Although there is no travel bucket list to check nor any concrete plans at the moment, she does want to spend a little more time enjoying her favourite hobbies, playing the guitar and violin, and singing in the choir at the hospital.  

And she is looking forward to being able to spend more time with family. She has three children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her husband, John, passed away in 1998.

Patti McFadyen, manager of surgical services, says Shirley will be greatly missed.

“She comes to work with a smile on her face. She whistles while walking down the hallway. And she exudes such a cheerful, positive attitude.”

Shirley Pearson (fourth from right in front row) celebrating with colleagues from Banff Mineral Springs Hospital at a recent long service award ceremony

Patti has known Shirley since 1989 and she served as her manager for five years.

“She’s very organized and precise, and known for her meticulous records. Even the patient labels are colour-coded according to the doctor,” says Patti.

For decades, Shirley has served as the hospital’s resident historian. Shirley’s legendary memory means people often ask her for details about past events, says Patti.    

Looking back on more than five decades of work, Shirley says she witnessed impressive growth and expansion of the facility. Her day-to-day work underwent significant transformation thanks to the evolution of technology. Where she once relied on a typewriter, much of Shirley’s work is now done online on a computer.

She says she misses the simple and tried ways of doing things like being able to connect with people face to face instead of using technology.

And she remembers working alongside the Sisters of St. Martha, who founded and managed the hospital prior to it being turned over to Covenant Health. She was trained by the nuns and worked with them for 26 years.

“The Sisters were so humble and caring. They were very dedicated to the work of serving the needs of the community,” recalls Shirley. The relationship with the Sisters extended beyond hospital work, such as hiking together in the mountains, she adds.

Working with great colleagues and being part of the mission to help those in need were two of the top reasons she worked for such a long time, Shirley says.

“We care about each other. We have a strong team that works well together. And there is always a new challenge or something new happening at the hospital every day.”

Outside of work, Shirley spends a lot of time with her other passion: music. Patti says this has always been a huge part of Shirley’s life. “Whether it is a potluck or events at the hospital, she would bring her guitar and entertain people with her music.”

When asked for advice on how to live a long life, Shirley says the key is balance and moderation (and more than a little luck).

And her secret to staying happy and engaged on the job for more than half a century?

It is about trying to do your best to help other people, she says.

“You don’t have to be famous to make a difference in the world. As long as you love your job and you do it with dedication, you will have made a contribution to humanity.”

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