You will not find her name recorded in the history books among the greats, nor a plaque hung on the walls of honourees or even recognized for her quiet contribution to the medical profession or the formation of the Nova Scotia Human Right Commission and other significant historical events in Nova Scotia.
For almost 60 years Sylvia Wedderburn has devoted her life to serving Nova Scotians of all ethnicity through her work as a head nurse and the only black female manager in the various hospitals in the city of Halifax and Dartmouth.
Sylvia Wedderburn knows only too well the sacrifices women like her make on behalf of their family members and who are there side by side or behind their famous spouses or companions such as her husband as the late Gus Wedderburn.
On Sunday, 10 December 2017, International Human Rights Day, we invite our family and friend to celebrate by recognizing Sylvia Wedderburn as a Champion among Champions for courageous efforts, being a trailblazer and her outstanding contribution to the province of Nova Scotia.
She is loved, adored and admired by her family and friends around the world as a phenomenal woman, who can be counted on to bring cheer to any audience with her sweet sounding melodic tones. Everyday Sylvia made her contribution to human rights by assisting excited yet timid young parents to bring a new life into our world. She challenged the establishment about the lack of progress for black people in the medical profession. While at the same time raising her own family, and supporting her husband with his professional career, political, community initiatives and aspirations.
Sylvia Wedderburn is a woman of gregarious spirit who is deeply compassionate and unabashedly authentic. A retired pediatric nurse, who often and spontaneously breaks out into song, Sylvia has been blazing trails since she was a young woman, leaving an indelible mark on those with whom she has and continues to touch.
She has been described as a woman who has an extraordinary gift for human kindness. Born and raised in New York, just outside Harlem, by her Jamaican parents who immigrated to the United States when they were young adults, Sylvia is one of four children. Upon deciding to become a nurse, she took her training at the Albert Einstein Medical Centre in Pennsylvania and served as Head Nurse at the Bethel Hospital in Brooklyn, New York shortly after that.
As the story goes, the head nurse who trained her, unbeknownst to Sylvia at the time, had a master plan – and that plan was to introduce her charismatic and socially conscious son to Sylvia with the hopes they would marry. And marry they did.
Sylvia wed Gus Wedderburn in 1958 and moved to Nova Scotia where they raised two children – John and Diane. The years that followed saw Sylvia work tirelessly as a nurse beginning at the Halifax Infirmary, then on to the Dartmouth General, the Victoria General and eventually the IWK where she was the administrative coordinator of Nursing.
Her career spanned almost 40 years, and during that time, she also proved to be an active member of her community. Known for her beautiful voice, she has been a choral singer for decades including her time as a cast member of CBC’s Singalong Jubilee. She still lends her dulcet tones to the Chebucto Singers where she has been a member for more than 20 years.
Sylvia has served on many Boards and Committees, many of which have focused on the health and wellness of our children and young women in need. Such posts have included Post Natal lecturing at the YMCA, Board Member on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board - Victim’s Services Division and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Brunswick-Cornwallis.
She is a mentor and sister to many and is always willing to extend a hand and a voice, to those in need.No stranger to adversity, Sylvia continues to maintain a passionate, thoughtful and graceful approach to dealing with life’s challenges.
She is a treasured member of her community and is relied on for her guidance and sage counsel. She is a leader across the many groups with whom she is in contact - whether it be the street where she lives, her church, her friends and sisters, her fellow choristers, her peers, or her family.
Her two granddaughters, Sophia and Eve, tell “Nanny Syl” that they feel blessed to have her in their lives. Blessed indeed.
Sylvia will always be our Champion of Champions. She continues to inspire us with her passion, zest for life and strength. (Compiled by Cherly James, UK and Ann Divine, NS).