From The Gazette

St. Lazare

Volunteering allowed George Hine to hobnob with Béliveau, Trudeau

  • Hine was honoured by Governor General David Johnston in a ceremony Nov. 27.
    Hine was honoured by Governor General David Johnston in a ceremony Nov. 27.
    Photo credit: Submitted photo

Most patients in a hospital don’t know the housekeeping staff by name, but George Hine wasn’t a typical employee.

“I remember I was with George waiting in the hospital for an appointment, and (former prime minister) Pierre Trudeau walked by and said, ‘hi George;’ I couldn’t believe it,” recalled his wife, Carolyn.

During his 25 years at the Montreal General Hospital, Hine, a St-Lazare resident, made an impression on many patients, by engaging them in conversation, and volunteering for many events and fundraisers, acting as Santa Claus at Christmas parties, dressing up as a clown, and acting as a mascot for the annual blood drive. He was also a volunteer on the hospital’s fire squad, and responded to emergencies before the fire department arrived.

Hine retired with an Award of Merit from the hospital, an honour usually reserved for doctors and nurses, and he was recently made an honourary member of the hospital’s auxiliary.

Since retiring 15 years ago, Hine has been one of the hospital’s most active volunteers. For that service, he was awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. He was presented with the award by Governor General David Johnston in a ceremony on Nov. 27.

“I was really honoured, and a bit embarrassed,” Hine said.

At 70, Hine says he has rarely been sick, even with all the time he spent in a hospital.

“Volunteering: that’s my secret,” he said.

His boundless energy was on display Friday morning, as he wouldn’t sit still at his kitchen table for an interview. He kept getting up and bringing over photo albums with pictures of events he helped organize, or people he met at the hospital.

One of those pictures showed Hine and former Canadiens great Jean Béliveau, with whom he often has coffee. Another picture from the 1980s, shows a llama Hine brought in for a Christmas party, borrowed from a friend.

“Believe it or not, I brought a llama into the hospital,” he said. “I had it in a little corner, and people came up to it; they loved it.”

He also showed dozens of photographs of himself dressed up as Santa Claus throughout the years.

When he was an employee, and every year since he retired, Hine has dressed up as Santa Claus for the annual Christmas party in the hospital’s geriatric ward.

For the last 18 years, he has helped co-ordinate the hospital’s annual Early Bird sale, some years staying in the hospital overnight to act as a guard in front of the merchandise.

Most recently, he built a used book store located on the hospital’s sixth floor, where volunteers sell books that they collect, and the money goes to the hospital. Since opening at the beginning of the year, the store has made $18,000 for the hospital. For that project, Hine didn’t simply find a contractor and hire him, he built most of the library himself, with the help of the staff carpenter, and electrician.

“It cost me nothing except the door for $99,” Hine said with a proud grin.

Hine is particularly proud he had the distinction of selling the store’s first book. A picture of him selling that book sits behind the shop’s cash.

“It just got to be part of my life, and I got to meet so many nice people through it. They’re like my second family,” he said. “It’s nice to be needed, and to feel needed.”

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
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One comment

  1. Theres not another person,that i know ,deserves this honour,as much as you do George.Maurice andi have never forgot,how that one year,we moved back to Quebec,and u were there to furnish our home,for the kids and i.George you have always been a caring man,and be proud our friend,theres not many left around.Congradulations our friend Love you xxoo

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