Toronto

Daughter of nurse who died of COVID-19 says her mother was 'warm, loving, hard-working, strong'

The daughter of an Ontario registered practical nurse who has died of COVID-19 is remembering her mother as a "warm, loving, hard-working, strong" woman.

Maureen Ambersley, registered practical nurse, worked at Mississauga long-term care home for years

Maureen Ambersley, 57, worked at Extendicare Mississauga long-term care home for more than 13 years. A resident of Brampton, Ambersley died on Jan. 5 and leaves behind two adult children, Ashley and Floyd Ambersley. She was also a grandmother. (Submitted by SEIU Healthcare)

The daughter of an Ontario registered practical nurse who has died of COVID-19 is remembering her mother as a "warm, loving, hard-working, strong" woman.

Maureen Ambersley, 57, worked at Extendicare Mississauga long-term care home for more than 13 years. A resident of Brampton, Ambersley died on Jan. 5 and leaves behind two adult children, Ashley and Floyd Ambersley. She was also a grandmother.

"She was an amazing woman. She was a warm, loving, hard-working, strong mom, not only to me and my brother, to my own kids," Ashley Ambersley told CBC Toronto on Wednesday.

"To a lot of people who know her in the community, she was helpful. She took in people if you didn't have anywhere to go. She loved to cook. She did everything she could to make me and my brother comfortable. She was just such a great citizen."

Ambersley's death comes as cases of COVID-19 are rising sharply in Ontario, and over the course of the pandemic, thousands of front-line health-care workers in the province have contracted the virus. Her union, SEIU Healthcare, says she is the fourth member to die of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Ashley Ambersley said her mother was passionate about her work and loved the people to whom she provided support. She started out as a personal support worker and worked her way up to registered practical nurse.

"She attended every funeral of anybody that passed away," she said "She was awesome."

According to Ambersley, her mother followed all protocols to avoid becoming infected with COVID-19 but still contracted the novel coronavirus.

"I don't know what more they could have done. This is a deadly disease," she said.

Floyd Ambersley said he will miss the presence of his mother. 

"My mom, she was such a warm person. When I come home and see my mom, she would always be like: 'Oh, come say hi.'"

Floyd Ambersley, left, and Ashley Ambersley, right, say Ontario residents need to take COVID-19 restrictions and the novel coronavirus itself seriously. (CBC)

Follow public health rules, nurse's children say

Both said Ontario residents need to take COVID-19 restrictions and the novel coronavirus itself seriously.

"It's not something to joke about. You won't really know the hurt of it affecting your life until it hits someone that you love or even hits yourself. We should all just make an effort not to pass this around. COVID is not a joke," Floyd Ambersley said.

Ashley Ambersley added: "It's very serious and it could happen to you."

A GoFundMe page, published to raise funds for her family, says Ambersley checked into hospital on Christmas Day and was put on life support on New Year's Eve. She died on Jan. 5 at 8:20 a.m.

"Maureen was a mother, sister, grandmother and overall a wonderful motherly figure to many. Maureen was a very caring, loving and understanding person," a message on the page says.

"She was known as someone who loved helping as much as she can. Maureen was funny, entertaining, smart and loved children. She loved to bake, cook and knit for her family and friends. Maureen had a beautiful soul!"

Described as "dependable" and "work driven," the message says Maureen was determined to continue her education in health care with the aim of adding nurse practitioner to her title.

Maureen Ambersley is pictured here at work. (Submitted by Ashley Ambersley)

According to SEIU Healthcare, which represents more than 60,000 health-care workers in Ontario, Ambersley's family, friends and colleagues are mourning her loss.

"She was a dedicated union steward and an exemplary RPN for over 16 years," the SEIU said in a news release on Wednesday.

Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, said in the release that she is extending her sympathies to Ambersley's family, friends and coworkers.

"Maureen represented everything good about what it means to serve your community," Stewart said.

"For her last birthday, she encouraged friends to make donations to SickKids Hospital Foundation. Maureen dedicated her working life to caring for our most vulnerable as a nurse in long-term care."

The union said Ambersley also leaves behind her parents.

4 SEIU members who have died were women of colour

SEIU Healthcare says Ambersley and the other members who have died of COVID-19 were all women of colour.

The other three are Christine Mandegarian, Arlene Reid and Sharon Roberts and all were personal support workers.

"It must be said that the death of health-care workers is preventable and the result of ongoing policy failures," Stewart said.

"As Ontario families bury more workers and residents in long-term care, we reiterate our demand of the provincial government for a new action plan to get us through this out-of-control crisis."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

With files from Muriel Draaisma, Jessica Cheung, Dwight Drummond

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