Cowin, Maebelle: Rosella Cunningham, 1915-2001 V.O.N., Health Nurse, & Professor of Nursing


by Maebelle Cowin

Rosella Cunningham was born June 30th, 1915, to Annie (Toms) and Harry Cunningham of Cobourg. Her parents lived at the Armories at 107 King St. W. where her father, a carpenter, was acting as caretaker at the time of her birth. The family moved back to their home at 48 Swayne St in 1921.

Rosella Cunningham 1936

Rosella and her brother Victor, attended public school on George St. Victor was 5 years older, and became a teacher. Rosella went on to attend Cobourg Collegiate Institute, then to the University of Toronto for her nursing degree. Her class 1933-1936 was the first Nursing Class to graduate from the university. She became a member of the V.O.N. (Victorian Order of Nurses) and worked in Windsor, Ontario from 1937-1940. She went on to Carleton Place as a nurse for the V.O.N. from 1940-1943. The following year she practiced nursing in Woodstock with the V.O.N. On to Ottawa she became Health Nurse from 1944-1945. Rosella came back to Cobourg to become Health Nurse, for the Cobourg Health Unit from 1945-1960. She worked as a School Nurse and also at the Well Baby Clinic. She also taught prenatal classes. From 1960-1963 she was back in Windsor, at the Essex Co. Health Unit as Director of Nursing, with a staff of 40 nurses. From 1963-1965 she was Director of Nurses for the Ottawa Region. In 1966-1967 she went back to University at Ann Arbor, Michigan to earn her degree as Professor (a degree in Health Nursing). After graduating, she went on to become a Professor teaching Health Nursing at the University of Toronto, 1967-1980. After her retirement she moved back to her place of birth, Cobourg. Rosella was a very small but wonderful women, quiet but very quick-witted. She loved to tell stories of her experiences as a young nurse in Windsor in the 1930's. She was predeceased by her father, Harry in 1937, her mother, Annie in 1957, and her brother Victor also in 1957. Rosella died in March of 2001 at Cobourg Hospital. She was a wonderful credit to her family and to the town of Cobourg.

Rosella and Student at Clinic