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Gaye Hironaka

Gaye Hironaka was born in Vancouver, B.C. and although she is a third generation Canadian, she is very proud of her Japanese roots. Gaye is also a person who has known adversity and is one of the hardest working and most determined people you will ever meet. We have the privilege of getting to call Gaye one of our beloved residents.

When Gaye was born, she had a non-malignant growth on her spine. This growth caused paralysis on her right side. At the young age of just 4 months old, she had surgery to remove the growth. The surgery was successful but left Gaye with a weaker and smaller right side. This would lead to a lifetime of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. She had to learn things that most of us take for granted. Speech therapy, piano exercises to strengthen her fingers, and daily home exercise were all a part of her life. This hard work is something that has stayed with her even to this day.

At the age of 4 Gaye moved to Raymond, Alberta. Gaye’s mom was tragically one of many Japanese Canadians who were placed in internment camps during WWII. She and her family were relocated to southern Alberta to work in the sugar beet farms. Knowing the hardship that her mom went through, it is not hard to see where Gaye gets her perseverance to move forward in life no matter what. Gaye’s grandmother is one of the biggest reasons she has such deep connections to her heritage. Her grandmother was born in Japan and came to Canada after her husband had found a suitable place for them to live. Gaye remembers her grandmother cooking traditional Japanese foods. Some of which she still enjoys to this day. Her favourite being sushi! Although she attended additional school on Saturdays to learn Japanese, she was never able to retain it that well. This was largely due to the fact that her family spoke English at home, and she never had the chance to practice.

After graduation, Gaye left her small hometown to pursue an education in nursing. She attended nursing school at the Calgary General Hospital. However, after some training, Gaye decided that nursing was not the career for her. She instead had developed a passion for medication. She was fascinated by prescriptions, what they could do to help people and their side affects. Gaye was off to the University of Alberta in Edmonton to achieve her Pharmacy Degree. Gaye graduated in 1975 and began her career. Her first job was in Grande Cache. Due to it being a smaller community, she had the opportunity to learn about a lot of different things including veterinary medicine. From there, Gaye moved to Edmonton and worked as a pharmacist for Shoppers Drug Mart. Next was Grande Prairie until her final transfer to Lloydminster in 1986.

Gaye was aware that her growth was growing back, and she and her doctor were keeping a close eye on it. They decided that the best course of action was to have an additional surgery to remove the growth. Gaye took a medical leave from her job for the surgery. Unfortunately, things did not go quite as planned and she was forced into early retirement in 1994.

In 2004, Gaye moved to Dr. Hemstock Residence. Her passion for life and the things she loves are admirable. She is an avid and enthusiastic tennis fan and has thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tokyo Olympics. Travelling to Japan was never something that Gaye was able to experience. She has heard stories from her family but never seen the sights for herself. Seeing the features of different parts of Japan on TV has been a highlight for her.

If you are looking for some inspiration, you just need to go spend a few minutes chatting with Gaye. Although she admits she has her down days, you can more often than not find her with a smile on her face and a story about something interesting she has learned about. She is one of our longest residents and we are sure happy that we have the pleasure of being a part of this amazing lady’s life.