Nursing Sister - Anna May Waters
May Waters was an independent woman who was decisive and determined in a practical way. As a very caring person, she dedicated her life to helping others obtain better health.
May Waters' life began January 21, 1903, in Strathroy, Ontario. In September 1911 she, along with her parents and three brothers, Doug, Mac and Jack, moved to Rosedale Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She attended Lord Roberts and Kelvin Schools, graduating as a registered nurse from Winnipeg General Hospital in 1927. She began her nursing career in the Ninette Sanatorium in December 1927 where she nursed tuberculosis patients until April 1929.
In May 1940, May Waters was appointed to the nursing service of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp (RCAMC) and in October 1941, she left Canada with another nursing sister, Kay Christie, and "C" Force Battalion to serve in Hong Kong. "C" Force was a composite Battalion of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, Royal Rifles of Canada and various units of a Headquarters support group that was sent to Hong Kong to assist the British in defending Hong Kong from an enemy invasion. The Battle lasted 17 days before the British surrendered. Canadians troops began a new life as Prisoners of War (POWs), living at the will of their captors for 44 months.
When Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day 1941, May Waters and Kay Christie were nursing in a British military hospital looking after the wounded, many of whom were Winnipeg Grenadiers. On August 10, 1942, the hospital was taken over by the Japanese and the nursing staff were moved to Stanley camp. May and the other medical staff not only had to survive their wounds but the lack of food, lack of medical supplies and ill-treatment by their captors. Their existence was further threatened by diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, Beri Beri and other contagious tropical diseases. Avitaminosis was also an issue because of the lack of food. May's experience in the sanatoriums was a benefit to the men that were stricken with tuberculosis and possibly contributed the survival of some of the prisoners throughout the epidemic.
The years in confinement during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong were very hard on May, especially because of the lack of privacy. However, her determination to care for the men suffering around her did not waver. To keep the soldiers' strength, she would make soup in a steel helmet.
When May was repatriated December 2, 1943, she returned to Winnipeg. She recuperated here for several months, gaining back the weight that she lost while detained in Hong Kong. On April 6, 1944 in Halifax, May was presented with the Royal Red Cross, second class, by Brigadier J.C. Stewart, CBE, DSO, district officer commanding MD. From September 1944 to August 1946, May rejoined her unit and served as part of the ship's staff on the TSS Letitia, a hospital ship that operated in the Atlantic and Pacific war theatres. In October 1945, May was briefly reunited with some of the Hong Kong POWs in Hawaii as they recuperated before returning to Canada.
Between August 1946 and September 1950, May was back in Winnipeg after being discharged from the RCAMC. She worked in the State sanatorium in Salem, Oregon, from September 1950 to October 1951. She then moved to Leahi Hospital in Honolulu until October 1952. At this time her ailing father brought her back to her family home in Winnipeg until he passed away in 1955.
On her return to Hawaii in April 1956, May worked with the nuns for almost 13 years in Kalaupapa, Molokai 7H, until she retired in May 1968 to Long Beach, California. May remained in Long Beach for her remaining years, making frequent trips to Winnipeg to see her family.
May loved to travel and loved nursing. In pursuing her life's vocation, as she showed a strong dedication to the many people that she cared for. Anna May Waters passed away December 8, 1987, at the age of 84.
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