Life and Work
From 1932 to 1946, when house calls were the rule rather than the exception, Amy Conroy was the District Nurse at Pendryl, a tiny hamlet 55 miles west of Wetaskiwin. She delivered babies, stitched wounds, and set broken bones at any hour of the day or night, winter or summer, rain, sun, or snow, travelling by buggy, cutter, or whatever means was available except horseback. For some reason no one knew, she drew the line there.
Born in 1875 in Kirkhill, Ontario, Amy Conroy entered the profession which was to be the love of her life when she graduated from the Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing in 1910. During World War I, she served overseas as a Nursing Sister. Finally, in 1921, she came to Alberta to become Supervisor of the Red Deer Children's Hospital for three years. She joined the Provincial Department of Health in 1924, later coming to occupy the nurse's cottage at Pendryl as the District Nurse in 1932. For over fourteen years, she dispensed her loving and expert care in every medical emergency.
In 1947, she was made a Life Member of the Canadian Legion Dominion Command. Retirement, in 1951, took her to Edmonton where she resided until her death in 1965, aged 89.
Mrs. Kate (Brighty) Colley, Superintendent of Public Health Nurses, wrote:
Miss Conroy was a much loved member of our Public Health Nursing Staff and my personal friendship with her. . . .will always be much cherished by me. I think Miss Conroy was the most selfless woman I have ever met. Wherever she went a mark of goodness was left."
The Nurses' Auxiliary, which began in 1929, was renamed to the Conroy Club in 1957. One of the roads in the Pendryl area also bears her name. Finally, in 1971 the local history book Trail Blazers was dedicated to her. In so many ways one receives the impression she was truly loved by everyone who experienced knowing her.
Letter of Appreciation by Walter Engblom
Nurse Conroy was the resident nurse while I was growing up a 1¾ miles (2 4/5 kilometres) from the Nurse's Cottage at Pendryl. She administered care to all of the members of my family at some time or other. This included delivery of my three sisters at home.
On another occasion I was suffering from several painful boils clustered around my knee. It had to be at the busy time of the year when I stayed home from school to help with the harvesting, very dusty, dirty work. The bandages just couldn't be kept on and infection set in, a condition which often led to "blood poisoning." While Nurse Conroy was working on my knee lancing the boils I fainted dead away and fell right over her, landing on top of her on the floor. Since I was a big guy for my age of 14, tiny Nurse Conroy could hardly get out from under me. The next thing I knew she was putting a cold rag on the back of my neck and holding something to my nose. She laughed as she said she was actually afraid she might not make it out from under me, I was so heavy!
Nurse Conroy was just like our doctor. Everyone had a lot of confidence in her. She would often be picked up in the middle of the night to visit an ill patient and never complain. Everyone respected and admired her and considered her a true friend.
Remembrance by Anges Abbott
When I was 14 years old I had appendicitis and had to be taken out to Wetaskiwin Hospital. Nurse Conroy accompanied me on the trip. She filled a hot water bottle with ice which she kept on my side over the appendix. Since it was winter our car got stuck in a snowdrift three times. Twice we were pulled out by a team of horses and once by a tractor. Each time, or whenever opportunity arose, Nurse Conroy would wade into the snowdrifts to refill the hot water bottle with snow to keep my side cold. Although the appendix had burst by the time we reached the hospital, it could be drained and this was because it had been kept so cold. I am certain her action saved my life. I have always felt so grateful.
Agnes' sister Shirley Cartier, was very small, about two or three years old, when she put her finger in front of the meat grinder and had the end cut off. Nurse Conroy had her soak her finger in a boracic solution. To get the child to keep her finger in the solution the nurse had her "chase around" the bits of floating boracic and thus made a game of keeping the finger in the solution.
Agnes' husband, Ed Abbott, tells of accidentally shooting himself in the arm while cleaning his gun (about 1932): "Nurse Conroy fixed me up and told me I wasn't in very bad shape."
Remembrance by Mildred Goodkey
"After my daughter Marge was born I was not well for some time and was advised not to get pregnant. However, I did become pregnant and had a miscarriage. Nurse Conroy was called. After she had cared for me and put me to bed I slept. When I woke up she was on her knees beside my bed offering prayers for me. I'm sure I owe my life to her."
"I was always great on canning, particularly the wild berries, strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons and blueberries. Whenever I gave Nurse Conroy a jar of preserves there was always a dollar bill tucked in the jar when she returned it to me."
"The supplies and medicines were always sent to the nurse's cottage in bulk. There were no handy little plastic containers in those days, so the nurses had to make do by collecting empty bottles from aspirins or vanilla, etc. to dispense medicine to their patients. Nurse Conroy always admonished us to be sure to 'return the bottle when it's empty.' "
Research and Writing: Audrey Frieman
Contributors: Walter Engblom, Audrey Freeman, Mildred Goodkey and Agnes Abbot
Curator: Harriet Liddle