The Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Huntingdon County Hospital has been working behind the scenes for 65 years now to ensure that the patients of the hospital, in all its iterations over the years, have benefited from an additional level of care. This year, to mark this anniversary, a book has been produced to tell the many stories over the history of the hospital and this exceptional group of women.
“Five years ago, during the activities for the 60th anniversary of the Ladies Auxiliary I had the crazy idea of writing a book,” says Christine Poirier, who worked for years as a nurse and head unit nurse at the hospital before retiring. She brought it up then with the members, but the idea was soon forgotten. “It was June Todd, the President, who reanimated the idea,” notes Poirier, who now volunteers as the treasurer for the Ladies Auxiliary. The Ladies Auxiliary connected with April Donnelly through Auxiliary secretary Brenda Larocque two years ago, and she readily agreed to give it her best. This resulted in 198 Chateauguay: Celebrating our Story, a bilingual 332-page book, set to be launched just before the upcoming Tea Party on Friday, May 3, in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Ladies Auxiliary.
“I had envisioned it would be about the size of the Chateauguay Valley Historical Society’s annual journal,” says Donnelly. “We soon realized it was going to be a much bigger project,” she laughs while describing the large box of “stuff” that she was presented with to use as source material. “It was very exciting to put together all the bits of the puzzle from the past,” she adds, noting the resulting book does a very thorough job tracing the history of the hospital as well as the Ladies Auxiliary. A glossary of terms used throughout the book was even created to ensure readers were able to follow along with local cultural references and different types of jargon used in some of the stories.
A series of stories
“I did not think it would be so extensive,” admits Poirier, who translated the book. “People really wanted to share their experiences,” she suggests. And indeed, the book is full of heartwarming recollections, from the young women who came from out East to nurse in Huntingdon while staying in the dormitory at the hospital, to the silver cup babies whose parents have been presented with a silver cup and layette set as the first baby born at the hospital of each new year between 1957 and 1973.
“It was a way of bringing people together,” says Donnelly of the interviews conducted as part of the research for the book. “It took a lot of people down memory lane,” she adds. “It was a real pleasure to put it all together. We captured some nice memories and important facts and put them together.” The significance of the book, while at once commemorating 65 years of the Ladies Auxiliary, is the depiction of this special relationship between the organization and the hospital over the years and through several evolutions of the Huntingdon County Hospital to its current role as a long-term care facility. For Donnelly and Poirier, the hospital continues to play an important role in the community, “even if it is not the same as it used to be.” The pair cite the many extras the patients are so fortunate to have as a result of the Ladies Auxiliary, while also praising all who work at the hospital for the care they continue to give to all the patients.
A number of people from within the community contributed to the book by sharing their stories, and several from outside the area also featured significantly in the creation of the book, including Ruth Goold Judd, Rita Godin, Patrice Dionne and Jeannette Martin, who all helped to proofread and edit the manuscript in French and English. Local graphic designer Chantal Hortop volunteered to do the layout and design for the book as well.
As the first book written by Donnelly, she admits to having been bitten by the bug. She is already planning and researching her next book on the area of Athelstan and Cooperville.
The Book launch will take place at 12:30 followed by a Tea Party being held by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Huntingdon County Hospital on Friday, May 3, from 1 pm to 4 pm, in the recreation room. The book will be available for purchase, and the authors will be on hand to answer questions and sign copies.