Chronology of Ostomy Halifax (A tribute to Bette Yetman)

The history of Ostomy Halifax Society by Ed Tummers


The early days (in Bette’s own words)

“You might be interested to know that there was an earlier ostomy group formed by the woman who was my visitor in 1969 when I was in hospital. The first meeting under the encouragement of Dr. Barton was held in the Infirmary and I attended in a wheelchair. Roy Baker was elected Treasurer and there were about 30 in the group. The president, Margaret Rolfe, was a ward clerk at the V.G., had an ileostomy for about 30 years. She tried to coax Dr. Barton into sending her for training as an ET. She was rather odd and fortunately, he kept putting her off. Because she was so consumed for money, she decided to put on a fundraiser play at the Queen Elizabeth High School, asking the doctor’s and other medical staff at the V.G. for their children to take part. Most of us in the group wanted no part of it. She approached Mr. Mills of Mills Store and Olands of the Brewery for stage settings (furniture, etc.) which they gladly donated. Plus she asked the Atlantic Swells singing group to entertain before and after the play.

I still cringe over the whole affair. Few people attended and I think it was only the parents of the children but she did make a considerable amount of money from donations, etc. A policeman on duty was pretty smart as he could see what was happening and refused to leave without being paid.  That was the last time we were together as a group as the president took off with the money and was a real fiasco. For years I couldn’t face people I knew who were in the Atlantic Swells as they had been promised some money and never received it.

Ruth Kenney and I realized that there should be another group and in early October, 1972, I put an ad in the newspaper for anyone interested in ostomies to meet at the Halifax Infirmary later that month. Surprisingly, we had at least 50 or more people, including Roy Baker and most of the people who had been in the first group. And, as you know Roy again took on the position of Treasurer which he held for at least 10 years when Ruth Willis accepted it. ”

The Story Continues…(prepared by Ed Tummers from archival material)

With the support of Halifax Infirmary CEO Dr. Fred Barton, Bette Yetman was interviewed by the Board of the Halifax Infirmary and given permission to initiate a Visiting Program with the help of Ruth Kenney in late 1971.

Again, with the instigation and encouragement of, Dr. Barton, a small invitation was placed in the ‘Personal’ column of the Halifax Herald by Bette Yetman.  An organizational meeting was held in the Auditorium of the Halifax Infirmary in October, 1972, attended by approximately 50 persons. From the enthusiasm generated at that meeting, it was decided to continue and the first regular monthly meeting of Metro Halifax chapter was held on Sunday, January 10, 1973.  Over the years, the chapter has had a proud tradition of helping to organize chapters throughout the region, and has contributed financially to almost every organizing chapter.

Bette Yetman organized the first meetings and served as President of the Metro Halifax Chapter from 1972 until 1976.  She wisely introduced term limits for serving Presidents, a policy which has guaranteed a steady supply of fresh ideas and new energy.  It has also given the serving President a vast pool of experience from which to draw.  At this moment, there are 7 Past-Presidents still living and connected in some way to the Chapter.

Realization that a communication tool was needed for a successful venture, the first newsletter was printed on January, 1973 with Bette Yetman as Editor. Approximately 25 issues were printed. In the mid 70’s, due to difficulties and printing costs, our mentor Dr. Barton approached the Halifax Infirmary Board for permission to have the chapter’s printing done in-house. When the Infirmary was closed in 1997, this permission was transferred to the Victoria General and continued until the printing services were contracted out in 2013.

As the chapter grew and other areas in the province formed ostomy groups, many of which were unable to fund or provide newsletters, invitations were extended that for a very nominal sum these chapter members could subscribe and would also include pertinent chapter news.  Over the years, Southwest Nova, Truro, Prince Edward Island, Moncton and Miramichi have taken advantage of this offer.

Bette, with the assistance of Ruth Kenney and others, travelled extensively throughout the region to assist others in forming ostomy support groups, going so far as to help raise funds to get them started.  The list of Chapters started by Bette Yetman is included below.


Awards and Appointments

1982    Metro Halifax Chapter received Chapter Achievement Award.  Exemplary Chapter Certificate with Blue Ribbon awarded by UOA Inc. for service to ostomates and membership increase.
1986    Helped found Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (Canada) and served as one of the first Directors
1990    Bette Yetman received Sam Dubin Award, the most prestigious award of UOA Inc at the Annual Conference in Las Vegas.  Only four Canadians have been honoured with this award since 1962.
Bette Yetman received the Allan Porter Award for work with Friends of Ostomates Worldwide.
1992 – 1994     UOAC Vice President
1994- 1996      UOAC President
2000    Bette Yetman elected to UOAC Board of Directors
2000    UOAC Presidents Award for outstanding service
2001    Renaissance Great Comebacks Award for inspiration to other ostomates
2006    UOAC Maple Leaf Award, the highest form of recognition
2014    Burleigh Wile Award for selfless service to the Chapter


Chapters organized by Bette Yetman

1972    Organized Halifax chapter
1973    Halifax chapter affiliated with UOA Inc.
1975    Cape Breton;
1975    Annapolis Valley (now Middleton Satellite);
1975    Southwest Nova Scotia Yarmouth;
1976    Metro Halifax chapter incorporated
1977    Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown)
1978    Truro, NS
1979    Moncton, NB;
1979    Antigonish, Pictou County (New Glasgow)
1980    St. John’s Newfoundland;
1980    Lunenberg & Queens County (now South Shore Satellite)
1982    Bathurst, NB
1997    Kentville, NS (Annapolis Valley East Satellite)
2000    Miramichi City Group, NB
2001    Gander, NL


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