Lawna Wilson has been at Western for 42 years.

A social person by nature, Lawna’s job as a cashier at Centre Spot allows her to have daily conversations with students. As a familiar face on campus, Lawna is a mother figure for some students who are away from home.

“Something I like to do is encourage the students to get an A,” Lawna says, smiling. “I can remember about 10 years ago one student came up to me with tears in his eyes and showed me a paper with an A+ and he said, ‘Because of you telling me to study, I got an A+ and I had to show it to you.' ” 

Originally from Port Elgin, Lawna moved to London with her family when she was in fourth grade. Today, her family remains an important part of her life. Lawna and her sisters Linda and Doris work together to bring an annual craft show to Western. For over 21 years, Linda and her sisters have brought the Happy Times Craft Show to the UCC near the December holiday break.

“Originally it started with my mum [Marjorie Davie], my sister, Linda, and I because our family has arthritis,” Lawna explains. “So we do a lot of craft work to keep our hands motivated so they don’t go stiff.”

While Lawna’s sisters prefer to make knitwear, Lawna makes what she calls "fiddly goods," such as mini beeswax candles in the shape of Christmas trees.

To further help with her arthritis, Lawna learned sign language. She teaches it at her church, which also plays a large role in her life. Braille is next on the list of languages to learn for interest's sake.

“I like being around people and my church had some people that needed to learn [sign language]. And I just wanted to help people out that way,” Lawna says.

Lawna’s interest in teaching and her helpful spirit have shone through her church involvement and recent work in her mother’s nursing home. On weekends, Lawna brings in pets for the seniors to interact with. Lawna’s own pet turtle has made guest appearances, alongside other family pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits.

While Lawna says the seniors don’t necessarily remember the volunteers who bring in the pets, the animals are always remembered and adored. But at Western, Lawna is well remembered by families who have attended the University for generations. Lawna recalls a three-generation Western alumni family who visited campus; each generation remembers Lawna’s warm smiles fondly.

“It's nice to think they remember you after all those years,” Lawna reflects.  

Lawna has seen Western grow over the years and tried her hand at a variety of jobs. She has worked at most of the Hospitality Service counters across campus and was at one time a cook and dish washer.

Beyond her work at Western, Lawna has also had her own business. During the '80s and '90s, Lawna had a balloon animal business for children’s birthday parties. She also worked as a Sunday school teacher for nearly 35 years and was a church sign language interpreter for the deaf.

Through all that Lawna has done at Western and beyond, her love of people shines through.

“It’s nice to think you’ve made a difference.”

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Annie is a culture editor for volume 110. Previously, she was a staff writer for volume 109. She is in her fourth year studying English and political science. Contact her at annie@westerngazette.ca or follow her on Twitter @annierueter1.

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