Back to Top After 31 years of service, Stefan Mayer will soon hang up his blue volunteer jacket - The Ottawa Hospital

After 31 years of service, Stefan Mayer will soon hang up his blue volunteer jacket

Stefan Mayer

If you were born at the Riverside Campus between 1991 and 1997, there is a good chance that Stefan Mayer took your very first picture.

This was one of Stefan’s first volunteer gigs at The Ottawa Hospital. Shortly after retiring from his photography job at the Department of National Defence, Stefan decided to focus his lens on somewhere else he could make a difference. For more than 30 years, he has been one of the main photographers at The Ottawa Hospital.

In addition to his work with some of our younger patients, hospital staff have come to know him as the talented man behind the camera at our awards ceremonies and holiday parties.

Over the decades, Stefan has worn many hats as a volunteer at The Ottawa Hospital. Most recently, patients who arrive early at the Riverside Campus are greeted by his friendly smile and gentle jokes from behind the information desk.

No matter what job he takes on, every role gives him a chance to do what he seems to love most: brighten the days of everyone he meets.

“I’m always smiling. One patient, who came in for treatment every week, I got her a wheelchair,” he recalls. “And she said, ‘When I come here and I see Stefan smiling, I go into my treatment happy. When he’s not here, I’m sad.’”

“Some people ask me sometimes, ‘Are you like this with everybody?’ And I say, ‘Yes, I am.’”

With his 97th birthday coming up on October 15th, Stefan has decided to retire from his volunteer career with us later this fall. With the many hours he has given us over the past 31 years, Stefan leaves behind an incredible legacy of generosity, passion and joy.

A photograph of Stefan
Stefan has also volunteered with the Royal Canadian Air Force Association for more than 30 years.

From patient to volunteer

Stefan began volunteering with The Ottawa Hospital shortly after he had open heart surgery in 1991.

Even before he left the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, he was taking glasses of water to other patients. Once he had recovered, he returned to the hospital and said he would try out regular volunteer work for just two months. That two-month commitment turned into a 31-year career.

Stefan volunteers three days a week. He arrives as early as 5:30 in the morning and sometimes doesn’t leave until the evening. But the long hours have never stopped him. “I like volunteering,” he says. “I like helping.”

A lifetime of helping others

Born and raised in Yugoslavia, Stefan developed a passion for volunteering at a young age. “I was always doing something,” he recalls. “I was always helping people.”

In the years before he emigrated to Canada in 1957, he learned photography and skydiving. Once in Canada, he perfected his photography skills and worked for the Department of National Defence, retiring in 1990. Stefan has also volunteered with the Royal Canadian Air Force Association for more than 30 years, taking newsletter photos, visiting with veterans and driving them to medical appointments.

For his decades of volunteer service with both The Ottawa Hospital and the Air Force Association, Stefan was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

Stefan Mayer in his office at the Riverside Campus
Stefan’s office at the Riverside Campus is a testament to his lifetime of helping. The walls are decorated with his many certificates and photographs. “It’s my life,” he says with pride. “My life volunteering was A1.”

Slowing down but not stopping

With his 97th birthday approaching, Stefan wants to make more time for travel and seeing his family in Germany.

But he will always have time to help others in need. “I cannot stop,” says the lifelong volunteer, who hopes to lend his help to long-term homes on a casual basis.

And although he will soon hang up his camera and blue volunteer jacket, he plans to drop by the Riverside Campus once every week to see his many friends in the volunteering department. “They’re just like family,” he says with his trademark smile.


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