Families within a family
Dating back to the earliest days of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, generations of families have worked and contributed to the legacy of the organization. Today, family trees continue to take root at St. Joseph’s across all sites. Not only do they carry on proud traditions within their own families, but also that of an organization - the St. Joseph’s family. Read about some of these dedicated families – past and present:
Family ties through the ages
Shaping culture, lore and expertise
American author Alex Haley famously wrote “in every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” This is true both figuratively and literally at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where generations within families have made their mark.
“It’s not unusual to hear St. Joseph’s employees refer to each other as family, but as it turns out, many of them actually are,” says Noelle Tangredi, keeper of the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Nursing School Artifact Collection and curator of the latest exhibit that provides a glimpse of proud family stories at St. Joseph’s Hospital dating back to the early 1900s.
One particularly leafy family tree is that of the Woolson family. It begins when two sisters, Helen and Margaret, graduated from St. Joseph’s Nursing School - Helen in 1904 and Margaret in 1908. Margaret’s daughter, Mary, followed in her mother’s footsteps, graduating in 1931, and would marry a young intern at St. Joseph’s, Dr. Evarist Durocher. Their daughter, Margaret, would also don a nursing cap at St. Joseph’s and marry a physician - otolaryngologist Dr. Gordon LeBoldus, who retired in 2020 after 60 years of practice.
The Woolson ties go on to yet another generation for a total of four generations over 90 years.
The illustrious Thompson family tree is also woven into the history of St. Joseph’s Hospital. Eye, ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Septimus Thompson practiced at St Joseph’s Hospital for 50 years before retiring as a highly respected physician and leader in 1946, just as his son Dr. Charles Thompson was beginning his career in the same specialty. Charles later confined his practice to ophthalmology and would see patients at St. Joseph’s until he retired at age 90. For many years, he also provided expert eye care, often at his own expense, to Indigenous people in distant Arctic communities and remote parts of Newfoundland, Labrador and Northern Ontario.
The Stevenson doctor brothers, meanwhile, were notable beyond patient care. Both Hugh, an anesthesiologist, and William, a surgeon, were generous benefactors to St. Joseph’s Hospital and active in city politics with Hugh the Mayor of London from 1915 to 1917.
Father and sons of the Tillmann family would also contribute to the development of St. Joseph’s in more than patient care, teaching and research. Quite literally, the building blocks of St. Joseph’s are cemented in the Tillmann legacy.
Dr. William Joseph Tillmann was renown in the field of paediatrics while his son, Dr. William Anthony Tillmann, founded the Department of Psychiatry at St. Joseph's Hospital in 1952, which became a model of general hospital psychiatry adopted across the country.
Another son, Peter, was an architect who designed two new wings and several additions and changes to the hospital that were completed in 1954. Continuing in Peter’s footsteps is his son Tom Tillmann – architect and partner with Architects Tillmann Ruth Robinson. Tom and his team designed the latest renovations and new builds at St. Joseph's Hospital, the Mental Health Care Building at Parkwood Institute and Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care – winning design awards and accolades for St. Joseph’s of today.
These family stories and many more have shaped the culture, lore and expertise of St. Joseph’s Hospital, firmly entrenching physicians and staff and among the city’s most dedicated pioneers.
Families of today
The great great great granny connection
Not many people can say they share a workplace with their great great great grandmother. But Kendal Cushman can.
Kendal, a personal support worker (PSW) at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care for the past 15 years “and counting”, was long preceded at St. Joseph’s by his triple G grandmother, Katherine Galloway, who was the head of housekeeping in her day.
“She was my grandmother's grandmother on my father's side,” explains Kendal. “She had emigrated to Canada shortly after 1923 from Patrick in Glasgow, Scotland, and took up housekeeping for a few wealthy families in London while also overseeing the housekeeping department at St. Joseph’s.”
Kendal estimates that Katherine would have been employed at St. Joseph’s in the 1930s and early 1940s before passing away in 1944 at age 66.
Another Cushman clan member was Kendal’s sister, Nancy McFadden, who worked in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at St. Joseph’s Hospital for many years, providing administrative support to several neonatologists. As an NICU staff member and mom to a premature newborn who received care in the NICU, Nancy was an enthusiastic champion of the program. She was on staff when the perinatal program moved to London Health Sciences Centre in 2011. On the last day before the move, staff lined the hallways starting at 6:30 am for an emotional salute to the shift leaving the hospital for the last time and those arriving for their final shift. Nancy brought her toddler, still in his pyjamas, to join the crowd. With a giant thank-you sign, his presence was one of the most heart-warming moments of that last day.
Nancy moved to LHSC with the program but sadly passed away in 2012. Her son, Xander, is now a healthy 16-year-old who is doing well in high school.
With Nancy being nine years older than Kendal, he has fond memories volunteering in her office while in high school doing mail runs and other tasks.
“When I graduated from the PSW program at Fanshawe College and was looking to start my career, Nancy told me to apply to Mount Hope. My first day on a unit, I felt I was at home.”
The Tangredi ties
Noelle Tangredi’s family ties run deep at St. Joseph’s – nearly 70 years deep.
With her mom, sister, two nieces and husband all with connections – “St. Joseph’s has always felt like home,” says Noelle, an E-learning developer now in her 35th year with the organization.
It all started with Noelle’s mom, Johanna Prins, who began working in the blood bank at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1956 under then supervisor Sister St. William Ford. When Sister St. William created room in the blood bank for a cytology lab, Johanna was encouraged to learn the technique. She would work at St. Joseph’s for more than 30 years and eventually become a registered cytologist before retiring in 1987.
Noelle spent a lot of time at the hospital as a child waiting for her mom after school so they could walk or drive home together.
“I remember her letting me put the mail in the pneumatic tubes that sucked the mail down to the mail room and using the scary elevator with a gate that had to be closed first and then the buttons pushed.”
Noelle’s sister, Johanna Heard, joined St. Joseph’s as a registered practical nurse in 1969, which would lead to a 23-year career at St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital and Marian Villa. Then came niece Louise Heard in 1987, who worked in Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care for about a decade. The FNS tradition continued with niece Jennifer Heard, and also by Noelle’s husband, Peter Tangredi, who has had several roles within FNS since 1989 and continues to work in the department.
Since starting at St. Joseph’s, Noelle has worn several hats. She began in switchboard/reception at St. Mary's Hospital and Marian Villa, became “secretary of special projects”, and later moved to her current role in Organizational Development and Learning Services.
“Although people in my ‘work family’ come and go, I'm so grateful for the incredible people I've met over the years.”
A family legacy in mental health care
The Pressey family is St. Joseph’s proud. Four family members – three of them currently on staff – have made the organization the focus of their work and passion in mental health care.
“I started working for Parkwood Hospital when it was governed by the Women’s Christian Association and my sister Marsha worked at St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital. We were both amalgamated under the St. Joseph’s umbrella,” explains Paul Pressey, now a registered nurse at Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care. “We influenced our family to take on their roles at St. Joseph’s.”
Other family members who joined the St. Joseph’s fold include Paul’s wife, Barbara Pressey, and niece Ashley – Marsha’s daughter.
Fresh out of high school, Paul was encouraged by Marsha to enrol in the former Regional School for Nursing Assistants in London and they attended together. He would further his nursing career in 2002, becoming a registered nurse.
Paul spent his first 20 years in nursing looking after the veterans at the now Parkwood Institute Main Building. But again, Marsha led him in a new direction. As a registered practical nurse, Marsha’s career took her from the St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital to Regional Mental Health Care London, and then to Southwest Centre before retiring.
“I was encouraged by my sister to come to work at Southwest Centre and in a different type of nursing - forensic mental health care,” says Paul. “So here I am.”
Ashley, meanwhile, is also a registered nurse at Southwest Centre, and Barbara is with housekeeping within St. Joseph’s mental health care programs.
For Paul, the close-knit work environment sets St. Joseph’s apart.
“I’ve enjoyed working at St. Josephs for the family atmosphere and the many friendships made over the years.”