40 years of QA memories: How the longest standing employee at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health saved hundreds of archives from being destroyed
This story is part of a series that celebrates the legacy of the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health, paying tribute to the origins of Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island and the work we do today.
Pay a visit to the archives room at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health (QAC) and you’ll find stacks of large black leather-bound scrapbooks filled with photos from over the years, keeping the history of QAC alive. However, it’s thanks to one of QAC’s longest standing employees, Sherman Hemeon, that these books are still here today.
Sherman’s QAC experience
If you’ve spent any time at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health in the last 40 years, it’s likely you may have crossed paths with Sherman Hemeon. Today, Sherman is the Environmental Support Services Manager for seven hospitals in Greater Victoria, but in 1979, Sherman began working at the then Queen Alexandra Hospital (QA) as a cleaner. He described it as the dream job, with the beautiful waterfront location, and wages he could brag to his friends about, but it was his experience interacting with the children staying at the hospital that in turn made the job so special to him. In his first years working at QA, Sherman recalls many of the children would follow him around as he worked.
“We interacted with the kids everyday. They were basically our friends.”
For Sherman, the opportunity to work around the children staying at the hospital gave him a new understanding of children living with health challenges. He began to realize that while these children were dealing with tremendous health challenges, they were still full of life just like any other children.
One of the most eye-opening experiences for Sherman happened one night when he was working a night shift.
“There was one little kid that used to follow me around quite a bit as I’d clean the offices. One night as I went to put the garbage out he followed me out to the back door. He had cerebral palsy and couldn’t speak very well. He started sounding really excited about something and I was trying to understand what he was talking about as he kept looking up. I then realized that it was the first time he had ever seen the moon.”
After that experience, Sherman began to organize outings for the kids, and even took them fishing.
Saving history, one scrapbook at a time
One of Sherman’s first tasks when he was hired at QA was to clean out the storage room. While sorting through the room, Sherman noticed a pile of old photo albums. Though he had only been working at QA for a short while, he already recognized some of the children in the photos and even found some that dated back to the Solarium at Mill Bay. He had been instructed to throw the photos out but decided to bring them home with him for safe keeping instead.
“I just don’t like to see memories thrown away. Anyone’s memories. If I can find out who they belong to and that they are important to somebody, then it’s important to me.”
Several years later, when a group of QA employees decided to start an archives program for the hospital, Sherman mentioned the scrapbooks he had saved.
“[The scrapbooks] came up in conversation and I said, if they reappeared would someone be happy? They said yes, so I brought them back the next day and they ran with it.”
Leaving a legacy of memories
Sherman has been a hero for the history of QA, and in return QA has given Sherman a second home.
“[Working at the Queen Alexandra Hospital] has given me a life and opportunities that I otherwise never would have had. It’s been a real eye-opener for me and to be honest, I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for this place.”
Today, the saved scrapbooks, along with plenty of other important pieces of QA’s history, can be found in the archives room at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health on Arbutus Road.