Two NHS workers based in the same office discovered they were long lost relatives after getting involved in celebrations to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS.
It turns out Dr Anita Green (pictured on the right), Associate Director of Nurse Education at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and Joanna Norcross (left), Assistant Contract Manager at the mental health trust, are actually third cousins – but neither had a clue until they signed up to share their personal stories about why they both chose a career in the NHS as part of Sussex Partnership’s 70 Stories for 70 Years campaign.
It was only when they read each other’s stories that they discovered they were related through pioneering nurse Dame Alice Mary Williamson – Anita’s great aunt and Joanna’s grandmother’s cousin.
Dame Alice Mary Williamson, born in 1903 rose through the ranks as a nurse to become Air Commandant and Matron in Chief, Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service, and has always been a source of inspiration for Anita, a third generation nurse.
After retiring as Matron-in- Chief in 1959 she went on to become Chief Nursing Officer in Kuwait until 1962 where she led on the organisation of the nursing services.
Anita, from Hayling Island, said: “It’s such an amazing co-incidence. This is what happens when we celebrate 70 years of the NHS. It brings distance family members together!
“Dame Alice, or Auntie Mary to the family, was an amazing woman, perfectly generous and gracious. I have been lucky enough to inherit her medals so have a wonderful reminder of what women can achieve. She is still an inspiration to me.”
Joanna, from Worthing, added: ‘I’m so stunned by the smallness of the world.
“I was stunned to discover that Anita is my 3rd cousin, such a small world and what was the likelihood of both of us washing up at the same place, given that neither of us has any obvious connection with Sussex. My Aunt (Anita’s mother’s 2nd cousin) was very excited to hear that I’d “found” a relative as she is busy building a family tree and remembers Dame Alice quite vividly. Clearly time to start planning a family reunion and all thanks to the NHS!”
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provides mental health and learning disability services for all ages in Sussex and specialist mental health services for children and young people in Hampshire.
It employs more than 4,000 people across the two counties. Anita and Joanna are based at the Trust’s HQ in Swandean, Worthing.