By: Ewa Chwojko-Srawley

Sue Williams juggles so many community commitments that she can barely keep track of them all. Her motto: Just do what needs to be done! That practical approach sums up years of volunteering.

Her notebook is like a community phonebook, filled with hundreds of names. She probably knows more people in the community than most local politicians.

The impulse to help others was deeply ingrained in Sue’s character and upbringing. She always wanted to lend a helping hand, and nursing seemed like the perfect fit for her.

Her mother Mary, who passed away while Sue was still young, and her stepmother, Pauline, dedicated their lives to nursing. Her father saw these same qualities in her and knew she would follow in their footsteps. With a mix of familial influence and her own desire to make a difference, Sue pursued her studies at Wellesley Hospital in Toronto, becoming a certified registered nurse.

She furthered her professional education at Seneca College, and later, she trained a younger generation of PSWs at the York Region Board of Education.

“Choosing this profession was the best thing I ever did,” she says. “It gave me everything I wanted, and I enjoyed every part of it.”

The family tradition continues; her daughter, Katie, after getting a degree in biology, also decided that nursing was her calling.

Sue Willams, Registered Nurse (RN)

Sue grew up on a farm in Dixie, Ontario. Her parents bought a 200-acre farm in Georgina in the 1950s. In the late 1960s, she purchased a 50-acre farm close to Egypt and moved there in 1972.

Sue lived near her brother Stephen Pallett and his family. Pallet was president of the Sutton Fair and one day he asked her to run a baby show. The first year she ran it, 56 babies were registered; the next year, the number jumped to 126. She was persuasive.

Volunteering for the Sutton Agricultural Society followed. In the 1980s, she ran the ambassador program and was on the entertainment committee.

Currently, she oversees exhibitions and shows in Kin Hall and the Arena. She coordinates volunteers who are responsible for a particular exhibit: the antique show, the art show, the kids show, and more. Although the event lasts only four days, work is all year round.

When asked what the most challenging part of her job is, she says with a twinkle in her eye, “Pleasing all the people all the time, smoothing those feathers. And never get upset but focus on how to help.”

She got her children involved from the beginning, and now her three grandkids are involved, too. Talk about passing the torch.

When Sue relocated from her farm to the town of Sutton, her commitment to volunteering soared.

She served on the Minister and Personnel Committee for Virginia United Church, spearheaded the organization of the Strawberry Supper (with crowds exceeding 100 guests), and volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society and Red Barn Theatre. She also participated in fundraising at Georgina Cares.

She juggled these responsibilities alongside her demanding role as Director of Nursing and then Administrator at River Glen Haven Nursing Home. She remembers, “I rallied community members to lend a hand. I loved that job and envisioned staying indefinitely, hopefully transitioning into one of the beds one day. However, the winds of change blew in, and before I knew it, I was let go.”

She missed the hustle and bustle of “keeping all balls in the air,” so she quickly became involved with the newly established Hospice Georgina. Taking over from Barb Monroe and Thelma Sellers, she ran it for 11 years as the Executive Director.

Sue chuckles as she recalls the moment she received a crucial phone call about the position: she happened to be surrounded by cows in a barn at the time. The caller heard loud “mooooing” and got worried, asking if everything was alright.

She retired as Executive Director but is still volunteering. Now, she is focusing her energy on securing funds to build a residential hospice.

Sue & Blair receive Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship

Sue tied the knot with Blair Gillies in 1995, and they have been an unstoppable team. Sue continued to call herself ‘Sue Williams,’ as she was known in the community, and so, in all logic, her husband called himself ‘Mr. Sue Williams’

Their dedication to making a difference was recognized in 2008 when they were honoured with a Volunteer Award of Merit from the Town of Georgina. Blair says, “I’ve lived in many places, from Montreal to Vancouver, but none have felt as welcoming and wonderful as the community here in Georgina.”

Another award Sue cherishes is the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship, received from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, James Bartleman. This medal is given to those who make a lasting impact in their communities and the province.

Community means everything to Sue; it’s like her second family.

“I am very energetic, so I can’t stay home for long. Life sometimes gets hard, but I don’t waste time despairing. I reach out to others when I need support, and in turn, they come to me in times of need,” she says.

Sue firmly believes that what you give to the world will return to you tenfold. Alongside her close-knit biological family (numbering around 50 at their last Easter gathering), Sue’s community is vast indeed, filled with warmth, support, and an unshakeable sense of togetherness.