Norma hangs up after fifty years in the job

Norma Matterson is retiring from her role on the switch at the Lismore Base Hospital after fifty years in the job.
Norma Matterson is retiring from her role on the switch at the Lismore Base Hospital after fifty years in the job. Cathy Adams

SHE'S been working the phones at the Lismore Base Hospital for 50 years, but 85-year-old Norma Matterson hung up for the last time yesterday.

After working 71 years of her life, Mrs Matterson, who turns 86 in October, definitely deserves a break, her colleagues all agreed - and they threw her a surprise party to say a bittersweet goodbye.

"I wasn't expecting this - you're all such beautiful people," Mrs Matterson told the farewell party.

The self-titled "Switch Witch" said she'd had "a lot of fun" during her 50 years at the Base.

"I've loved all 50 years I've worked here - every minute of it," Mrs Matterson said.

"It's a good place to work. People used to ask me 'Are you still working at the switchboard?' Well, if you like what you're doing, why would you change it?"

She said it had been wonderful working with such great people.

"It's been wonderful working with you - you know me, if it hadn't, I'd have told you," the sharp-witted woman told the crowd who had gathered to see her off.

"I'm going to miss you all, I really am."

One of her former colleagues, Joy Stieger, who recently retired after spending 30 years working the switchboard with Mrs Matterson, said Mrs Matterson was an "unbelievable" woman.

"She's definitely done her bit," she said.

She knows the hospital back to front, and her memory was remarkable - Mrs Matterson knows every phone number in the hospital off by heart, Mrs Stieger said.

"She's a walking encyclopaedia - If I could remember half what she knows now I'd be happy," Mrs Stieger said.

Mrs Matterson agreed there was a lot of pressure working on the switchboard, but it was a "beautiful job" that she loved and took with a grain of salt.

"That's the switchboard operators' job - You have to know the answers."

She said she'll now be spending a lot more time gardening and going out with friends.

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