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Nurse Yvonne Martin, shown on a visit to Haiti in 2009 at right, is the first Canadian casualty reported in the earthquakes that devastated the island nation on Tuesday.

To a generation or two of patients from her rural community in Central Ontario, Yvonne Martin was the senior nurse at the local clinic who gave them their vaccinations, weighed their babies and took their blood pressure.

Then, retired and a grandmother, Ms. Martin assumed a new role as an aid worker who went to Haiti and fell in love with the long-suffering nation and its people.

Her mission came to an end on Tuesday afternoon amid the rubble of a collapsed Port-au-Prince guesthouse, the first confirmed death of a Canadian in the earthquake that devastated large swaths of the city and countryside beyond.

A member of a team of seven Canadian nurses who were going to set up mobile clinics in Haiti's northern provinces, Ms. Martin had arrived only an hour and a half before the earthquake struck and was just settling into her hotel.

The other six nurses, all from Ontario, were reported to be safe.

It was the fourth time Ms. Martin had been to Haiti. Prior to her first visit, she had only ever travelled in Canada and the United States, said Michael Norris, a physician at the clinic where Ms. Martin worked.

But with her first mission to Haiti, she found a new calling.

"She knew she would come back," recalled fellow nurse Yvonne Gingerich.

"She had a passion for Haiti. They were so poor and needed so much."

Ms. Martin grew up in Elmira, a small town north of Kitchener. She worked for 36 years at the Elmira Medical Centre until she retired two years ago. Her husband, Ron, who runs an agricultural business, is also close to retirement.

In her 60s, Ms. Martin was the mother of three grown sons and a grandmother several times over. But she wasn't ready to settle down just yet, Dr. Norris said.

Last fall, she returned to the clinic in Elmira to help with H1N1 flu vaccinations. But it was Haiti that stirred her heart.

Though a Mennonite, Ms. Martin offered her services to the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, which has an office in Kitchener and operates training centres, medical clinics and sanitation projects in Haiti.

Back home, she told friends of her growing admiration for the resilience of the people she encountered in the Caribbean nation.

"She was amazed how people in some fashion can still survive, have a community exist with the minimal help they had. That was one of the first things she said when she came back," Dr. Norris said.

And so last night, while hundreds of Canadians with ties to Haiti - members of the Haitian diaspora, relatives of aid workers and missionaries - awaited news of their loved ones, a corner of the Ontario heartland mourned a woman who had tried to help the people of an impoverished country.

"Please continue to pray for her family, especially her husband, Ron. In unity with them, we are consoled to know that she died doing exactly what she loved to do," said a statement posted on the website of Ms. Martin's home congregation, the Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church.

"She was a very nice woman. She loved to help the less fortunate," said 15-year-old Tyler Martin, the son of an acquaintance.



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