She grew up in an era of pretty severe poverty. She and her parents weathered the Great Depression, and money was always a very big concern. Despite this she achieved more in her lifetime than many will ever know.
Our adult values are shaped by our childhood experiences. As a consequence, we must be very conscious that when you evaluate a person’s response to a challenge, that response is a reflection of their earlier experiences. Her integrity was her greatest gift; it set the expectations for her behaviour and thus her work. It was a way of life for her.
To be a leader is to enable others to embrace a vision, initiative or assignment in such a way that they feel a sense of purpose, ownership, personal engagement, and common cause. A leader must inspire others to share a commitment to improving the community. The path from dreams to success does exist. First you must have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and finally the perseverance to follow it.
Lorna George was a leader in her own community. Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire others. Basically, to lead without a title is to derive your power within the organization not from your position but from your competence, effectiveness, relationships, excellence, innovation and ethics. In a nutshell, that was Lorna George.
Lorna had fundamental beliefs that she often wore on her sleeve. She was devoted to her family, church and her community in that order. She defended those beliefs with passion. Her motto could be summed up “you can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support.” She did not suffer fools and expected no more of others than she expected of herself. She probably had as many enemies as she had supporters, but in the end, she was her own woman. Her legacy is obvious.
Her vision was to have comprehensive health care available to residents of Isle Madame and Louisdale. Saint Anne Hospital was established in 1945 when she was a young adult. She worked there, and therefore, saw first-hand the value it had for residents of the area. When it was slated to close in 1980 she immediately understood the impact that would have on residents and found herself promoting a vision that few shared.
Lorna was undaunted, many say single-minded, as she could not imagine holding on to doctors, nurses, and related health services without a government funded centre on the island. She conceived the idea of St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre, and despite her lack of professional training, she was able to pitch an idea never before tried in Nova Scotia: to establish an independent health facility governed and managed locally, whose governance structure bridged cultural and religious divides while adopting secular and modern business practices.
For the first time, an outpatient-emergency department, complete with diagnostic services, would be attached to a nursing home thereby requiring the marriage of two disparate government departments the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health. It has grown to provide outreach clinics and a home for veterans.
Lorna’s tenacity, political brinksmanship and sheer determination secured a future for a health facility that has been recognized for its sound business practices, efficiency and high standard of care. Lorna had help from dedicated board members and volunteers along the way but it was she who carried the mantle when no one else would or could. It was she who devoted countless hours raising funds, holding feet to the fire, while enduring withering criticism for these efforts.
If there are medical services on Isle Madame in 2018, it is because St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre is here. Her life’s work has not received the recognition that it should have as is so often the case when the protagonist has a vision that is not always in step with the powers that be. She accepted that as she accepted her humble beginnings as a baby of the dirty 30’s. Lorna will cast a very long shadow on Isle Madame.
There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well. Lorna George has left very large shoes to fill.
Dr. Bob Martel