September 27, 1924 - January 22, 1946
Agnes Jeanie Shearer was born on September 27, 1924 in Brantford, Ontario. She was the daughter of Robert Millar Shearer and Jeanie Russell Shearer of Saltcoats, Saskatchewan. She had one sister, Margaret Janet, a nurse in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and one brother, Robert, who died at the age of 4 in May 1925. The family attended the United Church.
Agnes was unemployed when she filled out her attestation papers on November 6, 1943 in Regina at the CWAC No. 112 Depot Coy. She had had experience in housework and was last employed by Mrs. Leila Weir of Saltcoats four months prior. She was living on her family's mixed farm and had been for most of her life.
On the PERSONNEL SELECTION RECORD, interviewed by Lt. Mary S. Drynan: "Completed Grade 11 in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan. Schooling from 6 - 18 years. Parents live on farm near Saltcoats. She has one sister going to school. Enjoys reading magazine stories -- McCalls and Chatelaine. Does a lot of knitting and has knit sweaters, gloves, etc. Keeps scrapbooks as a hobby. Favourite sports are skating, basketball, and softball. Is not musical. Took an active part in church -- Young People's Association. Has made a good social adjustment. Height 5' 7", weighs 132 pounds. Shearer is a tall, well built young girl of good appearance. Seems intelligent, friendly and alert. The "M" score is high and education is quite good. Very anxious to be trained as a clerk, general duty, and appears to be an excellent prospect for this." She was also assessed: "Most attractive in appearance and charming in manner." She had blue eyes and brown hair.
During Basic Training, Lt. Doreen Wilcox evaluated Agnes. "Enjoying Basic Training. Progress has been excellent. She would like to be a stenographer. Has good educational background and high ability. Recommend placement on Clerk's course with possible upgrade to stenographer." December 7 1943, No. 2 CWAC Training Centre, Vermilion, Alberta.
Training and Postings:
She was earning $1.10/day by March 3, 1944 and then $1.20/day by May 3, 1944. She had a furlough to Saltcoats in March 1944 and then a furlough in May 1944 and a three day pass in August 1944. She earned her Mars badge in May 1944. She was granted five days Christmas leave December 23 - 27, 1944. By February 18, 1945, she was a qualified Cipher Operator (Keyboard) Group "C", the equivalent in civilian trade as a commercial teletype operator.
On July 3, 1945, Cpl Shearer reported to the Rideau Military Hospital at Ottawa. "Between 1600 hours and 1800 hours, Saturday, June 23, 1945, I was playing with my cousin, aged three years, when he hit me on the breast. I was on leave at Bright, Ontario at the time. There were no witnesses. I was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages. I did not report to the MIR on my return as I was not suffering. It began to bother me more on Saturday, June 30, 1945, so I reported on Sick Parade on July 3, 1945." Treatment in hospital was hot compresses to left breast and penicillin. On July 5, she had a biopsy done.
On July 9, 1945, Agnes had an x-ray. "There is a very large soft tissue shadow, apparently breast, overlying the left chest which show a diffuse increase in density. This may be largely due to the extra thoracic swelling but my opinion is that there is also pleural effusion on the left side as well. The apical lung parenchyma and that on the right is clear. Refer to internist for consultation." On July 12, 1945, from Regina, Major T. Seddon wrote, "This 20 year old CWAC was seen in hospital on completion of MFB 227. This girl had previously been in good health until about ten days ago when, following a blow on the left breast, developed tenderness and swelling. Swelling increased and patient was admitted to hospital for treatment. Biopsy was done and the patient transferred from hospital to Regina. The patient states that she feels well, sleeps well, and eats well. Her only discomfort is due to tenderness of the left breast. Examination of the chest shows enlarged left breast with purplish discoloration. In the lower lateral quadrant, left breast, is a small incision, and a drain discharging a watery fluid. There is marked oedema of the breast and surrounding tissues....lung is clear throughout...provisional diagnosis of acute inflammatory carcinoma, left breast." The doctors investigated cancer possibly in the right breast as well. "Rather pale young woman."
Agnes was assessed by Lt. Norma French, CWAC Army Examiner on July 27, 1945 in Regina: "She has proven efficient and completely reliable. She is presently very ill in hospital, and has made no plans for the future. Should a complete recovery be effected, she would be, in view of her clerical experience in the Army, suitable for employment as a general office clerk and typist. Or should she, at any time desire further clerical training, eg as a stenographer or bookkeeper, it is considered that she has the ability to absorb such training."
Agnes was discharged to the Department of Veterans Affairs and for immediate treatment to the cancer clinic, which she received when she was admitted to the Saskatchewan Cancer Clinic on July 9, 1945. On July 27, she had a another biopsy done in one of her lymph nodes. She was started on a course of high voltage therapy to the left breast. The cancer spread into her lymph glands. Agnes remained at the clinic and continued with the high voltage therapy, as of August 25. There was some regression noted in both breasts and dimunition in the lymph nodes. "We are very pleased to report that Cpl Shearer is showing very definite improvement and her general condition has remained excellent. The only deterioration has been in the white blood cell element and this undoubtedly is due to the large amount of radiation that she has had to date." Dr. McKenzie added in his letter to Lt. Col. F. E. Coy, at the Rideau Military Hospital, "One of the most remarkable features to date has been the fact that the left sided pleural effusion, which was present on admission has completely cleared up and the lung parenchyma is completely clear. We noted that Dr. Kloz was sending sections of this biopsy to other pathologists for their opinion and we would be glad to receive these reports if they are available."
The Department of National Defence, on August 2, 1945 held a Court of Inquiry. "The medical evidence would indicate that it is very unlikely that the carcinoma was caused by the blow although the same may have aggravated it. As the cause of disability is unknown, it is impossible to state whether she was on duty and whether she was to blame...it is considered she showed negligence in not reporting injury at an earlier date. Not on duty and not to blame."
Agnes Jeanie Shearer died at her parents' home on the farm near Saltcoats, Saskatchewan on January 22, 1946. She was buried in the Saltcoats Cemetery.