Timmins council decides to make good on an old promise that was never fulfilled

Timmins city council has decided to fulfill a promise made one-hundred and three years ago by the Town of Timmins council in 1918.  

The promise was to erect a memorial to recognize the efforts of a nurse during the Spanish Influenza pandemic.  It has yet to happen. 

Laura Keon was twenty-five when she came to Timmins in 1918 to visit a relative.  She was from Sheenboro, Quebec.

In the autumn of that year, the Spanish flu was hitting the Timmins area hard and since Keon was a nurse, she volunteered to help. 

“You know, she volunteered and people don’t appreciate volunteers. Back then the nurses did everything. They changed the bed, they bathed the patient; they were almost like ICU nurses are today without the equipment," said Diane Armstrong, 'Over the Hill' columnist in Timmins. 

Armstrong said Keon was well-liked and was quickly promoted to manage all nurses in the town. 

“They were short of nurses so apparently she worked long hours and just got so tired she wrote her mum and said I don’t think I have the strength to fight it off.”

Keon contracted the virus and passed away within five days, on November 4, 1918. She was laid to rest at a cemetery in her home town. 

Picking up on the efforts of people before her, Armstrong has been trying for the past twelve years to encourage the City of Timmins to fulfill a promise to create a memorial in Keon's name. 

“Council of the day passed a resolution to build a memorial to honour Miss Keon and for some reason it never came to fruition," said Stephane Palmateer, clerk for the City of Timmins, during a recent council meeting. 

Timmins Museum curator Karen Bachmann said she defends the council of 1918.  "I think their minds were a little bit taken with how to deal with that (Spanish flu pandemic) and having to open up hospital spaces because there were no beds.  So I think that's kind of where it may have fallen through the cracks."

Timmins mayor George Pirie said details of plaque have yet to be determined, but he said council's decision is "a very simple motion to right that wrong" that happened so long ago.  

He told CTV News he will keep the public up-to-date with what the plans are to honour the late nurse Laura Keon.