A conversation with Paul Baszucki

To honor his late wife, Paul Baszucki contributed $6.5 million to Montage Health Foundation to create the Helen Baszucki Center of Nursing Excellence, investing in the professional growth and advancement of nurses to care for our community. Helen passed away in September 2020 at Community Hospital. She and Paul were married 59 years and had four children and 11 grandchildren. Baszucki, a retired telecommunications executive, recently shared some memories of Helen, the motivation for his gift, and his approach to philanthropy.

How did you and Helen meet?

I was studying business and accounting at the University of Saskatchewan and Helen was taking classes to become a clinical instructor. We were in the library, seated at the same table. I sent her a note asking if she was going to the social at the Newman Club that weekend. She was, and we met up there and dated for two years. We got married, on September 9, 1961, in Prince Albert. I have been so fortunate to have her in my life.

Why did you choose to honor Helen with a commitment to the nursing profession?

Helen always wanted to be a nurse. She trained at Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert; it was a four-year, in-residence program led by nuns, who were exacting. Helen had a great nursing career, did some extra nursing classes and became a clinical instructor, at a hospital in Saskatchewan. She had a real affection for the nursing profession and did really well at it scholastically and in practice. She had a special touch for it. We are giving to Montage Health because this is an important need and it’s a good thing to do. It reflects Helen — her life, her interests — and it’s something she would have loved.

What could lessons do you think Helen would provide to people studying nursing?

She was precise and clear in conveying the right way to do things — this was her ultimate message in teaching new nurses and in caring for patients. Once Helen was assisting in an open-chest surgery, handing the surgeon sponges to absorb blood. As the doctor started to close up the surgery site, Helen said, “My sponges don’t add up. There is still one in there.” The surgeon disagreed. Helen pressed him, stuck to her conviction. The surgeon went back in and found the sponge, then turned to Helen and said, “You just saved this person’s life.” She was a great nurse and in addition, to her skill and diligence, she was a caring nurse with great empathy for her patients.

You and Helen previously gave $500,000 to Montage Health Foundation to start the COVID-19 Relief Fund. What is your approach to philanthropy?

I’m not into multi-generational foundations that wait to make a move, to achieve something for the community many years from now. I am interested in making an impact now. We are focused on specific and local philanthropy. We need trained nurses now, and we need for the community to understand the value of this profession. Nurses are providing the care, at the bedside, 24/7. They are doing serious, essential, skilled, caring work.

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