The legacy of Georgina Jackson’s life at Humber Heights in Etobicoke can be seen in some of the flowers that bloom throughout her neighbourhood. Georgina took pride in them for she’d always loved gardening and they added to the beauty of her apartment when she lived independently in the village. When her needs changed and she moved into more supportive care, Lina Oliveira, one of the many team members at the village who grew close with Georgina, took clippings of her flowers to grow new plants.
Now, when Lina walks past one of Georgina’s Violets she’s reminded of the kindness she found when she met the lovely old woman and the family that was so close to her during her six years at the village.
Georgina was born a century ago in the small town of Penetanguishene along the shores of Georgian Bay – a fitting namesake for a woman who loved natural beauty and was always centred on and at the centre of the communities she called home. She was as independent as any young woman of her era, leaving the small town for the big city to study psychiatric nursing in Toronto before becoming a pioneer of the commercial airline industry as a stewardess – a job reserved entirely for single nurses in those early days. She was always proud of the fact that in 1941 she served on the first commercial flight between Toronto and New York City, but her career in flight was somewhat short lived after she left the airline industry to marry a dashing athlete and became a mother. She would eventually get back to nursing once her two children grew more independent.
Georgina’s son, John, recalls her devotion to family and community as one of his mother’s finest traits. She and her husband, Jack, were pillars in the lives of their grandchildren and in retirement, they helped care for them as they grew. Georgina loved her garden, she loved her neighbours and she loved her church community. After Jack passed away in 1994, she remained at home, caring for the gardens and the property as she’d always done until her health took a slight turn for the worse when she was in her mid-90s.
Moving into Humber Heights was not an easy choice for her, John admits, but before long she found a community there of which she was an integral part. Her apartment was a source of pride, her friendships with team members and fellow residents were genuine, and she was greeted with friendly faces everywhere she went during her long walks throughout the village.
“Any time we’d go walking around the gardens or while sitting in the lounges, my wife and I were always amazed,” recalls John. “It seemed like everybody in the place knew her – it was very impressive.”
For the first three years that Georgina lived at Humber Heights, she was almost entirely independent, but her needs eventually changed and John will be forever grateful that she was able to remain at Humber Heights.
“It was a tremendous help to us that we were not forced to try and relocate her,” John says. “She was able to be there for the entirety of her last years.”
In palliative care, she was surrounded by familiarity and John, together with his wife, Mary, his sister Gaye and her husband, Drake, found comfort in the fact that the team members knew her so well and cared for her with genuine compassion.
Lina, who knew Georgina so well, was there the day she took her final breath, and as hard as it was to see that day come she was glad to be there for Georgina and her family.
“We grieve,” Lina says. “I feel like I lost a family member and for the family as well, because we were so close. It’s hard to explain because it’s an empty feeling. The place isn’t the same anymore without Georgina.”
But her violets, they still bloom, and in their brightness lie fond memories.