Mary Williamson is being recognized as Woman of the Year 2012 for a lifetime of caring for others as a nurse, a friend and community volunteer.
“I’ve been a nurse for more than 50 years and my passion for nursing has never changed. I’m honoured to be selected for this award,” she told the audience at the Vernon Women in Business Woman of the Year Gala Thursday at the Best Western Plus Vernon Lodge.
“I was shocked that I was even nominated with four other very worthy people,” she said in an interview Friday morning. “I was stunned when they announced my name. I thought, ‘They’re talking about me.’ It is a great honour. We all do what we do because Vernon is our community and what we do to help is what makes it what it is.”
Williamson wanted to be a nurse since she was a child and she remembers her training at Royal Columbian Hospital where there was a strict dress code, black shoes and stockings and blue dress for the first two years, then the change to all white, worn with a navy cape lined with red. She worked at Hospital for Crippled Children, then moved to work at Shuswap General Hospital in Salmon Arm and later Sunshine Lodge in Vernon. She started Mary’s Manor, the first non-government-funded intermediate care facility in B.C. which was run to government standards. She now works with We Care Home Health Services. She was awarded an excellence of service plaque by the College of Registered Nurses in 2010. She is also a volunteer with Funtastic, Vernon Winter Carnival and the B.C. Winter Games as well as with Guiding and Scouting. She has three children and enjoys watching her nine grandchildren in their sporting activities.
One of Williamson’s letters of support read, “She is one of the kindest, most knowledgeable people I know,” while another said, “You can always trust Mary with everything you need.”
The other nominees were Tamara Cinnamon, Teresa Durning, Dauna Kennedy Grant and Lorna Robb.
The former Woman of the Year award recipients present were introduced, wearing peacock feather fascinators made by Val Buchanan. The peacock is a symbol of the integrity and beauty of these women and the more than 100 nominees over the years. Some of the former award recipients were represented by family members or friends.
Woman of the Year 2011 award recipient Min Sidhu talked about what her year has meant to her. “When I was leaving the house this evening, one of my daughters said, ‘Mom is going to get de-crowned,’” she said. “I do feel honoured and privileged to have my name next to those of all these incredible women who have had the award over the years.”
The 25th anniversary of the award which recognizes a woman who makes a difference in the community, who does not have to be a member of Vernon Woman in Business, brought an elegant amethyst and silver theme to the Vernon Lodge ballrooms with crystal chandeliers, flowers and candles.
Vernon Women in Business president Colleen Barker thanked the committee which organized the evening.
“We have been celebrating exceptional women in this community for 25 years. This event let’s us say thank you to the women who have committed their time and talents, personal energy and motivation to the betterment of our community,” she said.
Jean Koenig, co-winner, with her business partner, Melanie Korol, who could not be present, of the first Woman of the Year award in 1988, said, “Things have changed. They just told us at the store that we had won and then the next day we got the award. What they are doing here tonight is lovely,” said Koenig.
The event attracted family, friends and well-wishers.
“We had always wanted to come and I won the tickets just his morning on Kiss FM, even though I had to dial all 10 numbers. I enter contests but this is the first time I won. It’s beautiful,” said Anastasia Gates, who was happy to tell her husband, Glen, “We’re going out tonight.”
After a general toast to the nominees, they enjoyed a glass of champagne as they waited for the announcement. When it came it was short and sweet, as Sandra Simao, a member of the independent judging panel, unwrapped the sealed package with the name which had been closely guarded since the decision was made. Each nominee received a gift basket, a keepsake trophy, and a week-end getaway.
The previous recipients of the Woman of the Year award or representatives present were Jean Koenig, 1988; Claudette Everitt, 1990; Steven Lattey representing the late Hedi Lattey, 1991; Colleen Vollan, 1992; Donna Mihalcheon, 1993; June Rigby, 1994; Jan Shumay, representing the late Joan Jacobi, 1996; Jane Lister, 1997; Liz MacArthur, 1998; Betty Selin, 1999; Nola Neilsen, representing the late Marie Flemming, 2001; Phyllis Simon, 2002; Verne Williams representing the late Carol Williams, 2003; Marlene Stark, 2004; Carol Benz, 2005; Val Heuman, 2006; Michele Blais, 2007; Carol Wutzke, 2008; Barrita Durward, 2009; Shelley Haslett, 2010; Min Sidhu, 2011.
Not represented were the late Daphne Thuiller, 1989; the late Ruth Wolfe, 1995; and Ann Powter, 2000.