Iris Mooney passes away

Mooney was head of maternity at LMH for 40 years

Iris Mooney, seen here in 2013 with Jim McGregor at the Douglas Day celebrations, passed away on July 19 at the age of 91. Mooney was head of maternity at LMH for 40 years and even delivered McGregor into this world. Submitted photo

Iris Mooney —who helped bring thousands of Langley residents into this world as head of maternity at LMH — has passed away.

Mooney died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 91 on July 19.

Mooney was a well known, caring community member who lived in Langley for 70 years and was also the first woman to be elected onto Langley City council.

Her slogan, “Vote for Iris Mooney. She delivers” was a real hit with residents.

Mooney was living at a care facility on Vancouver Island. She moved away from Langley two years ago to be closer to family when her health began to fail. Mooney was a registered nurse at Langley Memorial Hospital for nearly 40 years, in charge of the maternity ward.

It’s believed that in her time at LMH she likely helped bring 20,000 babies into this world.

She also took over volunteer duties at Langley Christmas Bureau, creating a legacy of success there.

She was a devout member of the Sharon United Church in Murrayville. She was recognized for her various community efforts by receiving several awards including ‘Citizen of the Year’ and having a park named after her in Langley City, at 4630 209A Ave.

A celebration of life is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Aug. 29 at the United Churches of Langley (formerly Sharon United Church), 21562 Old Yale Rd. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation of which she was a part of.

In 2007, The Times featured Iris Mooney in its “Our Langley, Our People” special section. In the interview, she talks about why she decided to get into politics and breaking into the ‘old boys club’ of Langley City council, being a nurse at the brand new Langley Memorial and her thoughts on health care today. See the story below:

Delivering the Straight Goods

by Monique Tamminga

Times Reporter

After three and a half decades of delivering Langley’s babies and becoming the first female to break into the old boys’ club at City Hall, it is just recently that Iris Mooney’s schedule has quieted down.

Sitting in her beautiful backyard that overlooks the Nicomekl floodplains, Mooney, 82, talks about what it was like being a nurse in the 1950s and breaking down gender barriers by becoming Langley City’s first female councillor.

“When I was growing up, girls either became teachers, secretaries or nurses — that was it. Well, I sure didn’t want to become a teacher or a secretary — that left nursing,” she said.

So the Saskatchewan native went to school to become a nurse, going on to a Chicago University to specialize in maternity care.

“My parents moved to Langley. I was broke and Langley was still looking for nurses for the new hospital.

“I was only going to work long enough to buy a car to go,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. When asked where she was planning to go, she replied; “Anywhere. I was just going to go.”

But then Iris went to one of the popular Saturday night dances at Milner Hall where she locked eyes with a real estate agent by the name of Doug Mooney.

Thoughts of getting out of Dodge (or Langley, as it were) ended that very moment.

In the meantime, Royal Columbian Hospital had been threatening it would no longer take Langley patients, no matter how ill. The Langley hospital couldn’t have opened soon enough.

“Langley Memorial was built with all local money and very little government help,” said Mooney. “That’s why it’s so important the name ‘memorial,’ in memory of the veterans of the two wars, remains.”

LMH opened in 1948 and by 1949, patients lined the hallways on stretchers.

“Overcrowding has been going on since 1949,” she said. Within months of starting at LMH, Mooney was promoted to head nurse of the maternity ward, then a 34-bed ward with 10 nurses, a baby nursery and care unit.

“I remember coming to work one day and putting a mattress on a table in a utility room so a woman could deliver her baby. We didn’t send people to Seattle back then,” she chuckled.

Mooney delivered hundreds of babies a year, more than 10,000 before she retired.

“It was always a big relief when we heard the babies cry,” she said.

She delivered many prominent people in the community such as retired City fire chief Jim McGregor.

“I also delivered Jim’s son. The doctor didn’t get there in time,” she said.

Complications during delivery are still happening today, but they are handled differently now.

“There was this one miracle baby, born three months early. It was a little bit of a thing weighing only two pounds. We wrapped the baby up and put it down to die and then later on she was breathing on her own. Eighty days later, the baby went home just fine,” she said. In all these years, how woman deliver babies hasn’t really changed. No new technology has come along to take the pain of labour away, she remarked.

Back then nurses wore crisp white uniforms.

“Now nurses, doctors and cleaning staff all wear the same outfits. You can’t tell anyone apart,” she remarked.

She’s dismayed at what she sees at LMH, adding that she has hand-written and personally delivered a letter on how to improve health care to Langley MLA Mary Polak, who is in charge of the health conversations across the province.

Turnover of nurses, doctors and especially administrators wasn’t the norm like it is now. Back then, staff all new each other very well.

“The administration at LMH is for the birds,” said Mooney, known to not mince words. “There are far too many in the hospital with clipboards. The administration has changed so much and now the person running the show works at two hospitals.”

They eliminated head nurses, and there is no consistency of staff and care, she said.

“Sending the laundry all the way to Alberta and boiling an egg in Toronto and sending it here? You can’t tell me that’s cost-efficient.”

Despite delivering thousands of babies, holding them in her arms, weighing and caring for them — having her own son was a different story.

“Oh, yes, it was an eye opener. I was glad for the public health nurse to come by my house.”

Having a boy growing up in Langley where there wasn’t an ice rink for him to play hockey at, catapulted Mooney into running for City council in 1970 — entering a world of politics where only men filled government seats.

“I broke the old boys’ club. When I decided to run, an alderman said he didn’t care who ran as long as it wasn’t a woman,” she said.

All over town signs read: “Vote For Iris Mooney. She Delivers.”

“I had all the women’s vote because I delivered their babies.”

In fact, it was several women who asked Mooney to run and many others who volunteered to do her phone campaign.

“I spent less than $50 on my campaign.”

While she ran to be the first female City councillor, her son was teased for it at school.

“My son was 15. Kids gave him a rough time, but he survived it.”

Mooney ran for council because she had been driving her son and his friends to an ice rink in White Rock.

Langley had no ice rink even though it was a much larger municipality.

There was also sewage running down Newland Drive and she found that unacceptable.

Her first day in office, she held her head high.

“I decided I wouldn’t let them treat me as one of the boys. I was a woman and should be treated as such. I never wore pants, to remind them of that.”

So Mooney pushed for the building of an ice rink, with opposition from the men.

“Council said people wouldn’t want to pay for an ice rink. I said ‘how do you know what people want unless you ask them. Let’s put it to referendum.”

With outside support from George Preston, Jim Olsen and others, a referendum took place and 72 per cent of residents indicated they wanted a rink.

Mooney got her ice rink and she did get sewers to clean up Newlands Drive. After 10 years on council, and accomplishing what she wanted in the City, she decided to let go of politics.

“When I quit, I was cornered into running the Christmas Bureau, though.”

Mooney has gracefully, but pointedly made real differences in the community, going about her volunteer duties without fanfare, humbly winning the Women of Excellence award in 2004. Other awards hang on a wall in her sewing room.

“Whatever I do, I put all my effort into it — without losing out on family time, that’s the key,” she said.