TWO workers based in the same office discovered they were relatives after getting involved in celebrations to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS.
Dr Anita Green and Joanna Norcross both work at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and it was through the organisation’s 70 Stories for 70 Years campaign that they discovered they were third cousins.
Neither had a clue of their relation and it was only after reading each other’s stories – shared to celebrate 70 years of the NHS – they realised they shared the same relative – nurse Dame Alice Mary Williamson.
She is Hayling Island Anita’s great aunt and Joanna’s grandmother’s cousin.
Anita, associate director of nurse education, said: ‘It’s such an amazing coincidence. 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.’
Dame Alice, born in 1903, rose through the ranks as a nurse to become air commandant and matron in chief of the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service.
After retiring in 1959 she went on to become chief nursing officer in Kuwait until 1962 where she led on the organisation of the nursing services.
Joanna, assistant contract manager, said: ‘I’m so stunned by the smallness of the world.
‘I was stunned to discover that Anita is my third cousin and what the likelihood was of both of us ending up at the same work place, given that neither of us has any obvious connection with Sussex.
‘My aunt (Anita’s mother’s second 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 it is time to start planning a family reunion and all thanks to the NHS.’
On July 5, NHS organisations from across the UK celebrated its 70th anniversary with a range of events from cake sales, dress-up days and fundraisers.
They all marked the significant occasion with parties and honoured long-term serving members of staff.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provides mental health and learning disability services for all ages in Sussex and Camhs – 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 headquarters in Worthing.