In honour of Dental Hygienists Week April 6-12, 2014, BCDHA will be posting a series of blogs focused on dental hygiene and dental hygienists through the decades. We’re delighted to be able to profile Jo Gardner in a story written by her daughter, Janice Cox.
My mother, Jo Gardner was an amazing woman both personally and professionally. She was born on May 31st, 1925 in Spokane Washington. She moved to Portland Oregon to attend the University of Oregon’s school of Dental Hygiene and graduated in 1947. While attending Dental Hygiene she met and married my father, Dr. Claude Gardner. Upon his graduation from Dentistry in 1948 they moved to Vancouver and, in 1951, their only child, me, was born. In this same year, the profession of Dental Hygiene was officially recognized in B.C. and Jo became the 3rd registrant. And so begins the story of my mother’s career in Dental Hygiene which spanned more than five decades.
While I was growing up, my Mom worked one day a week in clinical Dental Hygiene in Vancouver. However, she also participated in many “road trips” to work in my father’s satellite practice in Bella Coola. In 1968, the new Program of Dental Hygiene was established at the University of British Columbia and Jo joined the teaching faculty, first on a part time basis and then full-time until the program was discontinued in 1986. My mom’s main area of expertise was radiography and she had a great way of visualizing and explaining techniques that helped students to consistently produce good results. She was a down-to-earth person who would always see the practical, real-life side of dental issues, and her bursts of laughter were refreshing and contagious. My mom’s passion for the Dental Hygiene profession was legendary and she was a natural mentor and role model for all of the students who passed through the UBC hallways, including me who graduated from the UBC Dental Hygiene program in 1978. Mom would be proud of her granddaughter, Katie, who not only received her Diploma in Dental Hygiene in 2010 from Vancouver Community College but also went on to complete her Degree in Dental Science at UBC in 2013.
When it came to professional responsibility and involvement, Mom became a icon for Dental Hygiene. She was one of six members to attend the first BCDHA annual general meeting in 1965 and in the same year became an active member of CDHA. From here, Mom went on to hold almost every association position at least once, including president at the local, provincial and national levels. Her longest position was that of CDHA membership chair during which time the number of hygienists in Canada grew from 650 to 5700. Now you must remember this was a time before computers and she had to do everything manually. Many a night I remember her being up until 1 or 2 in the morning recording address changes or tracking down missing dental hygienists. My Mom never complained but I remember thinking I would never do a job like that. She travelled a lot to fulfil her association responsibilities and during her active years of service, she participated in all but three national conventions and board meetings. In the 1980’s she served as secretary/treasurer for the International Dental Hygiene Association and attended two International conventions in that position. My mother’s hard work and dedication to the profession were an inspiration for all and she received many recognitions including BCDHA life membership, CDHA life membership, honorary UBC alumnus and the CDHA Beyond the Call of Duty award. But to quote my mother from an article that was written in the Dental Hygiene Journal (precursor to the Probe) when she left the position of membership chairman: “The friendships that have been made, the opportunities to meet many on their home ground at conventions, workshops, and board meetings more than compensate for the time spent and any frustrations that may have occurred and to be honest I did have some of the latter. However, I am an optimist and continue to look forward to future growth in numbers and recognition of our Association as a viable and influential professional organization. I have fulfilled one commitment, but will continue to be involved in this Association if for no other reason than to be able to meet so many friends again in the future.”
My mother was also a strong supporter of life-long learning and believed that no education was ever wasted. She was always reading, taking courses or attending lectures and conferences so it was no surprise when she decided to go “back to school”. From 1993 to 1998 she commuted to UBC from Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast, one to two times a week to study with people she herself had taught. At the age of 73, Mom realized a personal goal she had had for more than 50 years when she received her Bachelor of Dental Science degree. I know as family we were very proud of her achievement and I still marvel at her energy and stamina that it took to fulfil this dream. She was an inspiration for my girls and many of her friends and colleagues.
In my Mom’s retirement she continued to volunteer in many of the local community groups in Pender Harbour. The Reading Center, Pender Harbour Health Center Board, Emergency Social Services, Block watch and the Power Squadron to name a few. My mom loved to garden and she swam almost every day in the ocean in front of her home. She would often brag that she had the best beach in Pender Harbour.
My Mom touched many people in her lifetime, both personally and professionally. She leaves behind a legacy that is broad and deep. We will miss her sunny and positive outlook on life, her laughter and her kind and giving heart. And so ends the story of a truly remarkable woman who helped shape the profession of Dental Hygiene in Canada. She should be an example for us all.
Thank you Janice for sharing this wonderful story of your mom, Jo Gardner. All of us at BCDHA have no doubt that those Jo touched both personally and professionally are better for it.