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Nuns and Nightingales
The Time Capsule
Unveiling of the Time Capsule
Holy Cross Commenerative

Holy Cross Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Commemorative

Nuns and Nightingales bronze Statues

Photo from News Video of Nuns and Nurses unveiling of Bronze Statues - CTV News

A nun and a nurse are now permanent residents in Calgary's Mission area. A commemorative statue of a nun wearing a traditional habit and a nurse in a 1950's graduation uniform was unveiled today in front of the Holy Cross Centre.
Link to the news video

In 1891, four Sister of Charity nuns established the Holy Cross Hospital with just $73.75. The school of nursing was established sixteen years later in 1907. According to Barbara Nesselback, a graduate of the class of 1960, the statue is a nod to Sister of Charity nuns contribution to Calgary's history.
The bronze statue has been named 'Nuns and Nightingales'.

At the Holy Cross Alumnae spring meeting in 2007, there was a suggestion that we look into the possibility of having a Commemorative to the Holy Cross Hospital at the Rocky View Hospital Holy Cross Ambulatory Care area. Presently there are pictures and mementos of the Holy displayed there. Administration of Calgary Health Services were contacted about possible placement, however due to construction and space issues it was not an option. Permanence there was also a concern, so looking for alternative space began.

The committee looked into the idea of a Bronze statues depicting a Sister of Charity and a Graduate nurse on a base and possibly have names of the Graduates on the base. We felt we had come up with a project that will both honour the memory of the Holy Cross Hospital, the founding Sisters, and all the graduates who entered its hallowed halls to begin their nursing careers.


Don Begg and his wife Shirley of Studio West

Don Begg and his wife Shirley of Studio West

A meeting was arranged with Don Begg, Studio West,Cochrane a well known Bronze Sculpture Artist whose work is seen throughout Calgary, the Province and across Canada. We went to him with a proposal to have him create a free-standing Pedestal 3.5 - 4ft high with two bronze sculptures on top 16-17 in. high. We were also looking into having the names of all graduates on the pedestal. However, this proved far too costly and all the names would not fit on a base this size.

This commemoration project was not taken lightly by commissioned sculptor Don Begg and his wife Shirley of Studio West in Cochrane.

Historical accuracy is of utmost importance to the Beggs, who conducted extensive research on the topic before beginning the sculpture.

To ensure accurate detail in the finished product, the duo read extensively on the topic, borrowed uniforms from past graduates, and even made two trips to Winnipeg to learn more about the Grey Nuns. The Beggs' attention to detail can be seen right down to researching the precise pattern and stitching in the nuns' habits and the specific way their shoes had to be laced. Don and Shirley found that even the five pins used to hold the headpiece in place were significant, representing the five wounds of Christ.

The figures would represent a Sister of Charity and a Nurse in a Vintage uniform. around the base of the pedestal the names of all the graduates would be engraved. The cost of this project is $5.000.00 plus GST for each of the figures and the base at the cost of approximately $10,000.00 plus GST. This seems like a large amount, but we would have a very impressive commemorative on display honouring our Alma Mater.The next step was a suitable permanent site, after numerous phone calls and suggestions of an area we visited the City Hall to see if it might be a possibility there. Letters to various Alderman to enlist interest in our project led to speaking to Diane Colley-Urquhart who suggested we think about placement of the Bronze at the Holy Cross site. She also encouraged us to "go bigger" and make it life size. In July 2007 we met with the architect working with the Bow River Management at the Holy in Diane's office with Dr. Peter Huang on conference call with a proposal to place the Statue on the Holy Cross site. Dr. Huang was in agreement with this proposal. The thoughts initially were to place the Bronze in the main lobby of the hospital reception area, however with thoughts of having the larger Bronze we set up a meeting with the Beggs to discuss the possibility. The decision was a big step, but it would mean that the Commemorative would definitely be on a permanent site which was our initial plan. Don and Shirley Begg who have a real pioneer spirit are well known for their support of Heritage and History in our Province were excited to be involved in this project. The cost for the increased size would be $155,450.00 which would be done in four phases. Fund raising efforts began, With the approval and financial support of our Alumnae members, our Alumnae members were called upon to help and we contacted many Doctors, business men and friends. Dr. John Morgan, well known Calgary Cardiologist was our first donor. The Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) from Montreal sent a generous donation along with prayers and wishes for success. In July of 2008 the Committee met with Drs. Peter and Ian Huang they agreed to allow the Commemorative be placed in green space in front of the 1929 wing. suggesting a " park-like setting" for the site.

 The front of the 1929 wing

Front of the 1929 wing where the Nuns & Nightingales statue was to be placed


We enlisted the help of the Mission-Cliff Bungalow group who were very pleased with this proposal to enhance the heritage of the Mission Cliff Bungalow district.

In July of 2009 the 1929 wing was declared a Municipal Historical Resource and would be kept in its entirety. This was very good news because we felt the Bronze would be secure in that spot.

In July of 2010 we were called by an assistant to distinguished Calgary businessman Allan Markin, who has been awarded many honorary awards and degrees and is a philanthropist, that he was willing to donate a very generous contribution to the fund for the Bronze. Mr. Markin has a special philanthropic interest in health, wellness, and education. This was a turning point to officially commission the Beggs to proceed. Now the research stage began with meetings about traditional Habit of the Sisters and the Graduate uniform was decided to be circa 1950. The Beggs made several trips to Winnipeg, Mn. to meet with Sister Jean Ell, St. Boniface who has made many of the actual habit to guide them through the details and history of the Sisters of Charity garment.In April 2011 open house at Studio West to view the clay model of the Bronze was well attended and all were amazed at the size and accuracy of the figures. The official Unveiling will be Sunday, September 25, 2011 the reunion week-end for the Alumnae. Meeting with the Landscape architect, and having a survey done of area for the placement, construction of the base and finally plans to close the street for the unveiling day,were our next stage for the final completion. Meeting with the Landscape architect, and having a survey done of area for the placement, construction of the base and finally plans to close the street for the unveiling day, were our next stage for the final completion. The official Unveiling was Sunday, September 25, 2011 the reunion week-end for the Alumnae.

In January 2012 we met with Mr. Ron Mathison, who had agreed to assist with landscaping of the 1929 green space where the Statues are placed. Following this meeting we met with a Landscape Architect who did the original plans for the base who presented us with an estimate for the site. This proved to be very expensive endeavor. We forwarded the information to Mr. Mathison hoping he might have an alternative plan in mind. In the summer of 2012 we had not received any follow-up about the Landscaping and decided to get another estimate from an independent company. Our agreement with the Management of the Holy Cross was to have the site completed by the end of 2012. The second estimate was forwarded to Mr. Mathison and a meeting was arranged at the site with him and an associate where we went over our ideas and plans for the area. Management of the Holy Cross approved the proposed plans and in October the work began. The completion will be done by Spring 2013. However, the area looks very good already with new trees, bushes and new cement around base of the Statues.

An Endowment has been set up in perpetuity by Bob and Nola Rintoul for the maintenance of the Bronze. Karen Begg Studio West, Cochrane will be providing this service

Naturally there were a lot of details to work out for this project, but we feel that at the time we started the Alumnae was as strong as it is going to be. Thanks to the encouragement and financial support of our fellow Graduates, the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) fellow graduates, family, friends and generous businessmen "Nuns and Nightingales" is standing proudly as a reminder of the past. A tribute to the Sisters who so many years ago came West to establish the Holy Cross Hospital and the 2409 Nurses who graduated from the School of Nursing from its beginnings in 1907 to its closure in 1979.

Commenerative Commitee
Holy Cross Commemorative Committee
From Lt: Barbara Nesselbeck (Barrett Feb. 1960), Dolores Bramall (Tench Feb 1958), Rita Williamson (McAleese 1951) Anne Busch (Silbernagel Feb. 1958), (not shown) Advisor Barbara Kwasny (Holmes 1953).

Our special thoughts are with two of our Graduates who initially volunteered to help with this project: Gerrie (O'Connor) Macdonald (1959) and Diane Allan (1963). Both of these ladies were unable to continue with the Commemorative project as they became ill and passed away.

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