Maret Klaassen was born in the seaside town of Parnu, Estonia. Her adolescent life was
turned upside-down by the events of the Second World War and particularly the annexation of the Baltic states by Russia. In 1944 the family fled to Germany. Three years later, at the age of 19, Maret struck out on her own for England to train as a nurse.
While in Britain, she met her first husband, John Milnes. Following their marriage in 1950, they emigrated to Canada where their son Peter was born in 1951, with daughter Terry following in 1954. John’s work as a radio operator took the family to many parts of Canada, including Halifax, Baker Lake, Churchill and Ottawa.
During their stints in the far north, Maret was at times solely responsible for the healthcare of the entire community. The family finally settled in Kingston in the early 1960’s. The war had interrupted Maret’s post-secondary education , so she promptly enrolled at Queen’s University to obtain her degree in Nursing Science. She became a Nursing Instructor at St. Joseph’s School of Nursing, Hotel Dieu Hospital, Kingston where she remained until the nursing school transferred to St. Lawrence College in 1973. She was one of the key architects of the transfer of
local hospital nursing programs into the College. As the Coordinator of Continuing Education in the Health Sciences Department, she steered the development and implementation of continuing education for nurses and the establishment of the Health Care Aide program.
Maret went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Education ( Queen’s University)
and became a key figure in Nursing Education in Kingston first as Chair and then
as Dean of Health Sciences until her retirement from the College in 1989.
Her years in Kingston saw her marriage to Peter Johnson in 1980; their shared
interests included downhill skiing, canoeing, and gardening. Following her
retirement, Maret was involved in community and charitable work. She served on
the Board of Governors at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital and was an invaluable
member of the St. John’s Anglican Church parish community.