December 3, 2021
Helen passed away peacefully at her beloved home on Friday, December 3rd in Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island at the age of 97.
Born in Bentley, Alberta along with her siblings, Jimmy, Dora and Bob, she left when a teenager and went to Edmonton to put herself through high school, living and working for her ‘aunt’ Myrtle, who had a bakeshop in Edmonton. It is the reason why Helen was the best pastry maker and baker in town still baking our favourite cookies last summer.
She graduated at the top of her class in high school and then again at the top of her class as an RN at the School of Nursing attached to the Edmonton General Hospital. The training she received there served her throughout her long working life, even teaching granddaughters how to do proper ‘nurses corners’ when making a bed.
Shortly after graduating from nursing school and with steely determination to advance in life, she became an airline stewardess joining Trans Canada Airlines (TCA) (now Air Canada) in 1945 then one of Canada’s fledgling national commercial airlines. There she met and married Bill Charles, a pilot for TCA thus beginning a succession of commercial pilots in our family, her son Doug Charles and grandson, Edward Charles. The family then moved to Vancouver where her children, Doug and Laura were born and raised.
She returned to full time nursing in 1963 joining Vancouver General Hospital, then Lions Gate Hospital, in 1968, before finally moving to Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island in 1989 to build herself a home on the ocean, she fondly called, House on Sea. There, she worked at Nanaimo General Hospital until her retirement 5 years later spanning an impressive 31 years of full time nursing.
She was engaged in the arts both as a painter and a patron and later met and married the late Norman Shove, a well beloved figure in the Qualicum arts community who once asked my mum how many tickets he would need to ask her out for a date. They married in 2000. They spent several very happy and joyous years together before Norman passed in 2002. He is survived by his two sons, Michael and Gregory who became stepsons to my mum and members of our family.
Mum was a great survivor and used her innate talents, intelligence and determination to rise out of poverty during the depression through education, training and a dedication to learning which she carried throughout her life. She was an avid reader, well informed and loved intelligent conversation. Being well read she could carry a thoughtful and engaging conversation on many topics, art, music literature, medicine with a variety of people, from professors to artists to musicians. She was also a good story teller – funny, charming and deeply generous of herself to others. She could light up a room with her smile, laughter and her beauty. She will be remembered by all who had the good fortune to have known this kind, warm and remarkable woman. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
Helen is survived by her sister Dora, son Doug and daughter Laura, grandchildren Alexis, Teddy, Amelia and Olivia and great grandchildren Bella, Ava, Easton and Charlotte. She is also survived by her niece Anne and many good friends and people of the community of Parksville.
A special thank you to the Comfort Keepers care team and Darcy, their leader who worked with Helen for two years and also to Helen’s latest care givers, Tanya, Crysta, Shaina, Janine, Nicole and Milan who kept everything going even in difficult times and allowed mum to have the comfort of her own home. Their care, warmth and thoughtfulness will always be remembered and appreciated by her family. As well a special thank you to her friend and lawyer Karen Stewart who was a champion for mum ensuring she had everything she desired at the end. Thank you to everyone.
At mums request there will be no memorial service or service of remembrance. For those who wish, memorial donations can be made in her honour to the Canada Cancer Society through Yates Memorial Services, Parksville.
To send a condolence to the family please visit www.yatesmemorial.ca
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