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Small but Mighty: Celebrating the Life and Ministry of Miss Jean Capes
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By Haydn Jensen

After over 60 years of tireless dedication to nursing students and professional nurses, Jean Capes finally entered her eternal rest on December 28, 2015 at the age of 88. Although not imposing in stature, Jean Capes had a lasting impact on the lives of many nurses, nursing students, and patients as well as those in the broader Christian community. As a tribute to her inspiration and example to us all, I'd like to celebrate her life here.

Jean graduated from Victoria Hospital, London School of Nursing, University of Western Ontario. She also studied at London Bible Institute and Theological Seminary. After working as a nurse, she later became a charge nurse, a nursing teacher and a missionary nursing teacher in South America. Through the ministry of Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF), Jean hosted weekly NCF meetings in her home for decades. For countless Tuesday evenings, her home was filled with nurses from "new grad" status to retired missionary, all gathering for Bible study, guest speakers, discussion, prayer and encouragement.

You'll probably agree that nurses ought to take their profession seriously. You'll likely also agree that we as Christians ought to take our faith seriously. Jackie Schmidt, a nurse and friend of Jean's, reflects, "Jean's commitment to Jesus and nursing were both paramount in her life. They were inseparable. Anyone who knew Jean knew she was a nurse and a Christian." Jackie goes on to say, "She expected the same from the students and nurses who were members of Nurses Christian Fellowship. She expected her nurses to be of the highest caliber both in their professional and Christian life."

To get a better idea of Jean as a person, she once told me that she didn’t like broccoli, and yet she ate it almost every day, simply because 'it's so good for you'. That picture in many ways sums up how Jean put a higher value on choosing to do the right thing regardless of sentiment or personal preference. When she was a charge nurse or teaching nursing students, it would be fair to say that Jean knew how to command respect not only for herself but also for the exacting standards of nursing. Jean's niece, Darlene Riddoch shares on www.yourlifemoments.ca, "Aunt Jean was a certainly a force to be reckoned with all her life. We knew that as a teacher she was tough on all of her nursing students, but she also brought out the very best possible in those students." While some nurses under her supervision admit to having been terrified of Miss Capes because of her high expectations, they also recognize her compassion and fairness as she encouraged young nursing professionals. It has been suggested that Jean never met a nursing student she didn’t love. This rare blend of firmness and compassion in Jean as a nursing mentor made her not only a memorable teacher, but also an effective one. Many are the tributes from nurses who say they are better nurses today because of Miss Capes.

People naturally want to slow down and rest when our health fades. Not Jean. She continued to plan ministry meetings and events for Christian nurses until very recently, even though her health was clearly deteriorating. I have been to meetings at her house where she rested in bed all day just so she would have enough strength to chair the meeting that evening. Cancelling a meeting was not much of an option in Jean’s mind. This is truly an example of her unswerving dedication to the work of the kingdom, at personal cost.

Although Jean never married or had children, she did often talk about her children and grandchildren. She was talking about those she led to faith in Christ and their children; God used her persistence, sincerity and intelligence to call many to follow Him. Ever the mission-minded person, Jean cared enough about a person to ask about and challenge them on their spiritual commitments. She also supported many in local and foreign missions work and mentored many nursing and non-nursing missionaries with impressive devotion.

And yet, for all her serious and disciplined devotion to Christian and nursing work, she still had room in her heart for two other things: her cat and baseball. Chuay, or her previous cat, Caleb were loving and sometimes mischievous companions for Jean as she did paperwork at home, often using an old steel hospital rolling bed tray as a place for books and letters. As for baseball, the Detroit Tigers was her team. She enjoyed much playful banter with Jays fans and others she encountered.

Jean's was a life well-lived. What's more, she also helped others to live well, in body and in spirit. Good bye, sister. May you enjoy your well-deserved rest.

A memorial service was held at Stoney Creek Baptist Church on January 24, 2016 Donations to Nurses Christian Fellowship - Canada would be appreciated and may be made through www.ncfcanada.ca or (905) 415-8517