Winifred Vernon Godard was born on March 6, 1890, in Cobourg, Ontario to Charles Edward and Charlotte Vernon Godard (nee Bourn). She was born into a fairly large family, with two brothers and three sisters. She never married, and would go on to live a very full life with a career in nursing, which would take her from the Great Lakes of Ontario to the skyscrapers of New York, and from the military hospitals at the Western Front to the rolling hills of England. As a missionary, she even worked in the crowded cities of China for a time.
She began working toward her nursing diploma in 1911 at the Hopewell Isolation Hospital at St. Luke’s General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She graduated in 1913 as a prize-winning student, already marked as an exceptional young professional in health care. The year following graduation, soon after the commencement of the Great War, Winifred set her sights on becoming a military nurse. Lieutenant Godard was just 24 years old when she enlisted as a Nursing Sister on February 14, 1915 into the Canadian Medical Corp.
By February 1916 her unit had landed in Liverpool, England, and on February 20, 1916 she arrived for Duty at the Canadian 2nd Division Hospital in Le Trefond, France, serving there, and in Belgium, until the fall of 1918, when she returned to England. She departed Liverpool on April 3, 1919, at the age of 29, sailing on the SS Lapland to New York. Little is known about her duties throughout the Great War, or how she might have served during the great influenza epidemic that followed.
From New York, Winifred returned to her home province, arriving in Toronto in 1919. From there, she travelled to Vancouver, to the brand new nursing school at the University of British Columbia. Winifred enrolled in the two-year Diploma in Public Health Nursing program and graduated in 1924 with eleven other graduates. She won the BC Provincial Public Health Prize, which at the time was valued at $40.00, about the equivalent of $580.00 dollars today, demonstrating her exceptional abilities as a student nurse.
In 1927, Winifred journeyed across the globe once again to continue her nursing career, this time as a missionary for the Church of England, taking on the role of Head Operating Nurse at Peking Union Medical College Hospital in what is now Beijing, China. There she remained for several years until moving in 1935 to Englewood, New Jersey, where she worked at the Englewood Hospital for 11 years. Records say she also resided in New York for a period in 1940.
Winifred retired from her busy nursing career to St. Catharines, Ontario. She died on January 22, 1975, in Mississauga, Ontario, and was buried in Grafton, Ontario in the family plot next to her sister, just a short drive from Cobourg, where her travels had begun 84 years before.
Compiled by her nephew, Don Godard
Written by Kaleena Ipema, 2019