In Honour of Ruth Saunders

This small tribute to Ruth Saunders honors her service as a Nurse Missionary for the United Church of Canada in Korea from 1955 to 1989. During her lifetime she received national, provincial, and local awards from Korean governments as well as many international health awards.

Ruth Saunders was born in Alberta, but moved with her family to various places in BC during her early life. After high school, she volunteered with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and served overseas with a CWAC Military Band from 1942 to1946. After the war, she entered Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing in Victoria, graduating in 1950.

She worked for about a year at the United Church of Canada Home Mission Hospital, in Cold Lake, and joined the Church’s Deaconess School and was assigned to a Home Mission Hospital in Manning, Alberta. As it was planned she would go to Korea as a nurse missionary, she began taking courses to learn Korean. She then was sent as a public health nurse to the hill country in South Korea. She also was involved with the care of Koreans in a leper colony in the area, for which she was later honored.

When the Missions of the United Church of Canada and the USA Methodist Ministries built a hospital in Wonju, Saunders was appointed Nursing Administrator, a position she held from 1955 to 1989. Among her accomplishments there was development of a nursing program, now associated with Yonsei University.

After retirement, she returned to be near family on Vancouver Island; she died in 2002. The BC History of Nursing Society assisted her niece, Pat Cross of Campbell River, find a home for the papers and artifacts if this remarkable nurse. As most artifacts and awards are in Korean, Dr. Young Suk Park, professor in the Department of Nursing, Korea National Open University, Seoul, and visiting scholar at the University of BC School of Nursing, assisted their return to Wonju Christian Hospital. The Society established a biographical file with links to the collections at Wonju Hospital and the RJH Nurses Alumnae Archives.