Just three weeks ago, Jill McColl was celebrating Florence Nightingale's birthday with more than a hundred Southland nursing colleagues over a lunch at the Invercargill Working Men's Club.
Last week, the same friends gathered to farewell her. She had nursed with them for decades at Southland hospital Kew, heading Ward 10 for years, the right hand of orthopaedic registrars and surgeons, a first-rate tutor for many nurses and young doctors, a woman of great skill and great integrity.
"We were so fortunate to have someone of Jill McColl's calibre. She will be greatly missed," orthopaedic surgeon Murray Fosbender said.
Australian born and nurse-trained, McColl had her mother's Christian name, Fonda, as her own but chose to use her second name, Jill, and as Nurse Jill, Nana Jill, Nana Nurse and Nurse Nana she was known, loved and respected.
Coming to Southland as the bride of Rimu farmer John McColl, she joined the staff of Kew Hospital in the early 1970s and was to prove invaluable in her chosen area of expertise - orthopaedic nursing.
Jill McColl was recognised as one who put patients first, her gentle bedside tone becoming a commanding ring down corridors as she chased up some mis-deliverance.
Shona Fordyce, organiser of the annual Florence Nightingale luncheons and a lifelong nursing friend, said she was delighted and not one bit surprised when Jill McColl made it on the day.
Her illness had come quickly but she said she would be around for that, and for her birthday four days later. She was ticking off time and went when she was ready.
That, she said, was her friend's style, being thoroughly prepared, organised, not buffeted by fate nor baffled by what came her way - in command, in control, ready to do whatever was required.
The Rev Peter Dunn of her church, Windsor North Presbyterian, said her faith was remarkable, strong and steady.
"She said she knew where she was going, knew she would be in Heaven."
That faith stood her in good stead throughout her life, helping her to impart courage to patients in her care.
When in 1999 she moved from nursing into a hospital management role she kept tabs on all her patients.
Managing an orthopaedic roster proved a challenge but she could always make her presence felt, her voice heard.
Ceciley Mesman succeeded her as president of the Invercargill branch of women's service club Altrusa International and said her work fundraising, organising and planning was always 100 per cent. "She put in the work and got the results."
And she did the same professionally, completing postgraduate qualifications 20 years ago, papers on leadership, business and management which enabled her to make quick, sound decisions confidently, a trait appreciated by colleagues.
The McColls holidayed at Kingston over the years and memories of those times with their mother and grandmother are a legacy for those left: her husband John, sons Richard (Hamilton), Allan (Mudgee, Australia), and Sean (Invercargill), daughters-in-law Liz, Jenny and Kim, grandchildren Kate, Michael, Chris, Theresa, Andrew, Charlotte, Rachel, Jacob and Sam.
Fosbender said there were orthopaedic surgeons all over who will recall their registrar years in Southland and the friendship and guidance of charge nurse Jill McColl.
- The Southland Times