Tribute prepared by Dr. Carla Wells (with grateful acknowledgement to Dr. Belinda Parke, for her editorial assistance and content contribution)
Jessie Mantle, a Founding Member of the Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association (CGNA), died on September 2, 2021, at the age of 89 years, surrounded by those who loved her in life. Jessie was born in Chemainus, in southern Vancouver Island. She received her diploma in nursing from the Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing in Victoria in 1950. In 1966, she obtained her BN from McGill University and later a MN in San Francisco. She studied in Seattle while on sabbatical from the University of Western Ontario, completing post-degree work in gerontological nursing.
In 1981, Jessie returned to Victoria to assume a joint appointment at the University of Victoria, with 50% of her time spent working as a clinical nurse specialist with the Juan de Fuca Hospital Society. Jessie’s work in gerontological nursing touched the lives of many students and older adults and their families through her many roles, especially as both professor and clinical nurse specialist.
In 1983, Jessie was one of the key organizers for the First National Conference on Gerontological Nursing. Over four hundred gerontological nurses gathered to attend this conference at the University of Victoria from June 7-10, 1983. Presenters at this first conference submitted papers from their presentations. These presentations were compiled into a two-volume proceedings, published by the University of Victoria in 1983. Along with her two contributions to Volume II of these proceedings, Jessie authored the Introduction entitled “The Future of Gerontological Nursing.” Her concluding comment (remember this was written in 1983) still rings true today. She wrote “Let me add that we must not only come to grips with our personal aging, but we must also address the aging process as it relates to our profession. As we go forth from here as gerontologists, my plea is that we think of how to foster healthy aging on every front – for our clients, for ourselves, and for our profession” (Mantle, 1983, p. 5). Her vision for gerontological nursing was legendary and far ahead of her time.
Jessie Mantle and her beloved Alfie. Photo Courtesy of Dr. Belinda Parke
Jessie served as the second president of CGNA from 1985-87. Her leadership in the development of this nursing organization, was exemplary.
I, like some 800 other participants, heard Jessie speak in Winnipeg in 1984 at the second national conference on gerontological nursing. It was my first time meeting and hearing such a visionary gerontological nursing leader; I was truly inspired as a young practitioner. In my own journey towards future academic pursuits and later becoming a clinical nurse specialist, Jessie Mantle became not only a professional mentor and friend, but someone I aspired to emulate. I know that I was among many who held her in such high regard.
Even though Jessie retired in 1995, she stayed connected to CGNA, even attending the 2009 conference in Calgary. She was a Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria, where she had worked from 1981-1995. At the University of Victoria, she had established the Jessie Mantle Fellowship in Nursing, specifically aimed at those who were interested in improving the care and lives of the older adults. Her contribution extended into the community, where, from 1999-2006, she was the Site Coordinator for the Out of the Rain Night Shelter and she also was Co-Chair of the Task Force on Parish Health, which led to the establishment of the Parish Nursing Project.
Jessie has been the recipient of a Canadian Nurses Foundation Scholarship (1968); the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Teaching Award (1975); a World Health Fellowship (1975); and the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia Award of Excellence in Nursing Practice (1992) and the Canadian Nurses Association Centennial Award (2008). CGNA honoured Jessie through bestowing her an Honourary Lifetime Membership in CGNA.
In addition to Jessie’s academic accomplishments, she achieved national recognition befitting of the leader and innovator that she was. Recognized among her peers for her vision and her tireless efforts to elevate issues regarding care of older adults, Jessie was respected for her opinions, knowledge, and expertise. She set the bar high when it came to standards of excellence for gerontological nursing practice and leadership. The impact of her work is still being felt to this day, through initiatives in nursing care of older adults, and through the work of the national organization of which she was a founding member. Her support of new practitioners and her excitement interacting with them was a joy to watch. Those nurses who knew Jessie were forever touched by her willingness to share her enthusiasm for nursing practice and knowledge with everyone. Jessie had a deep understanding of care systems and processes and embraced interdisciplinary collaboration. Her leadership style was always inclusive, bringing together administrative and interdisciplinary partners in her drive to make improvements in long-term care. This led to innovations in care delivery that are sustained today in many clinical setting across Canada.
When I reflect on Jessie and her illustrious career, I am struck by the thousands (or more) older adults whose lives have been touch and improved because those nurses who impacted their lives were in fact influenced and guided by Jessie Mantle. Like a ripple on a calm body of water, Jessie’s impact, her mentoring, and teachings have rippled far and wide, beyond the present and long into the future. She will surely be missed.
To those who knew and loved Jessie, we offer our sincere condolences. Thomas Campbell wrote: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Jessie lives on in the hearts and minds of so many individuals – through those young and old – her legacy lives on.
Sources of Information for this Tribute
Jessie Mantle - University of Victoria (uvic.ca). Jessie Mantle: Empowering Students and the Elderly Through Education.
Jessie Mantle Fellowship in Nursing - University of Victoria (uvic.ca)
The Canadian Gerontological Nurse: Newsletter of the Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association, (1984). September. 1 (1).
University of Victoria (1983), First National Conference on Gerontological Nursing: Proceedings, V. I & II.
UVic nursing professors honoured - University of Victoria