St. Pierre: Memories of a friend

I reconnected with Maria Gaulhofer in 1987 when I transferred to The University of Western Ontario’s Microbiology and Immunology (MI) Department. Both previously technicians at Western’s Cancer Research Laboratory (CRL), Maria had left the CRL a year earlier, taking on the role of cleaning and sterilizing glassware for MI’s research labs. It was great to see her once again.

Maria would greet everyone with a smile. Her warm and friendly personality were contagious; her path throughout the department tracked by smiles and laughter. Quick and efficient, her dedication to detail was obvious from the moment you saw her briskly walking down the hall with a pipette bucket in each hand; her hair always beautifully styled, her makeup lightly and perfectly applied.

Her work room, located directly across the hall, was a small room, meticulously organized. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” was truly one of Maria’s mantras.

It took a few years as a research technician for me to appreciate how vital a role she played in the success of departmental research. Much as a home depends on a solid foundation in order to survive the onslaught of storms, so does a lab rely upon exceptionally clean and sterile materials to ensure consistent, dependable results. The integrity of our glassware was never in question while in Maria’s capable hands.

In the years that followed, Maria’s role extended to assisting with student labs. By doing do she influenced the future of numerous Western graduates, many of them unaware of the crucial role she played in their education.

 As the departmental autoclave was located in our lab, Maria was a daily visitor. Her ever-pleasant attitude, conscientious attention to detail, witty banter and, most of all, our daily chats were solely missed when I left MI in 1997. Each time our paths crossed in the years that followed, whether in a hallway, at the mall or waiting in line at the Health Sciences cafeteria, the years would dissolve away, and it was as if we were once again merely a hallway away from one another.

When I heard she was courageously battling cancer, I was stunned with the injustice of it all. Not surprisingly, she endured the grueling therapies with an optimistic spirit, and despite her poor health found the strength to send a thank you card.

Sadly, Maria passed away on Sept. 16, 2010. Now, one year later, I find myself thinking of Maria once again. 

Western, and most significantly the MI department, lost one of their most dedicated employees last year. At the time of her death, Maria ranked No. 1 in seniority at Western.

In her 43 years as a Western employee, 24 were served in MI. Few can boast of 25 years with an organization; 43 are almost unheard of. Loyalty such as this is exceptional and inspiring.

And so was Maria.

We miss your kindness, warmth and smile, Maria. You will not be forgotten.


Becky St. Pierre