THERE weren't enough seats to accommodate the crowd that turned out to wish Nola Nolan a happy retirement last month.
The former director of nursing had dedicated more than 38 years to Tabeel Retirement Living and Aged Care and said it had been "an honour” to serve her community.
"Tabeel has been my life,” she said.
At her farewell party shortly before Christmas, Ms Nolan recalled her first shift at Tabeel - December 5, 1979 - during which the home had a blackout.
"My first shift was horrendous,” she said.
"I didn't have anything like an orientation or a mentor... I was shown a cupboard of pills and told to distribute them, and then we had a blackout.
"I stood there and thought 'I am never coming back here'.
"But this was what I wanted to do, and so the weeks turned into months, and into years.”
With this less-than-ideal start, Ms Nolan continued to rise above each challenge thrown her way - including being the only registered nurse on deck during the 2011 and 2013 floods.
"It was just me with about four other staff,” she said.
"I think that was the most challenging moment I've ever had, and the biggest highlight for me.
"Although every day is a highlight at Tabeel.”
Her determination and dedication served not only to benefit Tabeel's residents, but also its staff.
Melanie Wagner, who will succeed Ms Nolan as care manager, said she knows all too well that she's got big shoes to fill.
"It's her calmness and leadership which made working alongside her such a good experience,” she said.
"She was always going outside her scope of practice; it was always about the residents for Nola.
"I've got her to thank for where I am today. She's the best boss I've ever had.”
While Ms Nolan acknowledged she would miss the camaraderie with her former colleagues and the daily interactions with Tabeel's residents, there were some things she was happy to let go - such as rosters.
"It is a bitter-sweet day,” she said.
"This is a new beginning for me. My husband said to me just yesterday that he'll get his wife back now.”
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