If you lived in Burns Lake in the 1950s, you probably remember Miss Clara Preston, the matron at the old hospital. Miss Preston’s fiancé died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, so she dedicated her life to healing, arriving in China in 1922. She is mentioned on many, many pages of the book Healing in Henan, which is an account of the United Church missionary nurses in that torn and suffering nation.
She was a huge presence there for 25 years.
Among her many harrowing experiences when she ran the women’s hospital in Anyang, she experienced a howling anti-foreigner mob setting fire to the entrance, survived the Japanese occupation of her workplace and heard a bomb hit the roof of the compound. She was evacuated from the country four times because of war and civil insurrection, but she kept going back.
She had no choice but to leave for good when the ascendant Communists closed the foreign mission hospitals in 1947.
Burns Lake must have seemed pretty tame by contrast.
She died in 1959– she had been visiting the seniors at the old folks’ home on Gerow Island and passed away on the bridge while walking home. She was 68.