Sister Claire Gagnon, who started the Providence Alaska Pastoral Care Department in 1975, died peacefully in her sleep on Nov. 17, at her home in the St. Joseph Residence in Seattle. She was 99 years old.
Sister Gagnon was the longest-serving Sister of Providence at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where she worked for 28 years. She retired in 2003. In the summer of 2014 she celebrated her 75th year as a religious sister.
Sister Gagnon was born on a farm in St. Prosper, Quebec, in 1919. After her father died, Sister Gagnon’s mother sent her and one of her sisters to the Sisters of Providence orphanage at Trois Rivieres, Quebec. Sister Gagnon entered the Sisters of Providence in 1938 to pursue life as a nurse. After she made her first profession in 1940, she was sent to Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle to serve in the infirmary and learn English, followed by work as a cook at Sacred Heart School in Tacoma, Wash., in 1941.
She began nurse training at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima, Wash., and completed her bachelor’s in nursing. During her years of service, Sister Gagnon provided care in hospitals in many different hospitals in the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, Portland, Ore., and Walla Walla, Wash. Her first role as an administrator was at St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Wash., where she served for 13 years.
In 1975, Sister Gagnon began studying pastoral education at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco. Following completion of her studies, she began the Pastoral Care Department at Providence Alaska Medical Center – at the time, Providence Hospital – in Anchorage. In this role she led a team of caregivers providing the spiritual needs of patients, families and hospital staff.
During her time in Anchorage, she was known for her love of Alaska’s outdoors, where she embraced activities such as skiing and jogging, occasionally around the Providence Alaska campus.
In an article in the September 2014 edition of the Catholic Anchor, Sister Gagnon said, “It has been a wonderful life. I am getting ready for home whenever the Lord says it is time. I hope it won’t be too long. The Lord will take me as I am because he made me that way.”
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, in the West Auditorium of Providence Alaska Medical Center.