Eileen Sinclair Nason Cambon

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  • "I am sorry to hear of the death of your mother. Our..."
    - Margaret Royal
  • "Noreen and Marie - I am so saddened to hear of your..."
    - Beth Smith
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    - Brian Ferstman
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    - Lorna Sent
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Eileen Sinclair Nason Cambon passed away on August 8th, 2017, surrounded by her daughter Noreen, grandson Harrison Kamermans and caregiver Ken Schonberger. It's hard to believe this dynamic and inspiring woman has left us. Eileen joins her husband, Kenneth George Cambon who predeceased her in 2007 and her siblings John, Margaret and David Nason.

Eileen was born in Saint John, New Brunswick on March 22nd, 1926 to Eulah (née Stuart) and Wallace Nason. Eileen was "a Maritimer... an eighth generation North American... whose [paternal] great-great- grandfather was a seafaring man, and found his dream spot along the Saint John River in what is now New Brunswick."

Growing up during the Great Depression, Eileen set her sights high and won a scholarship to the University of New Brunswick, graduating in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science. Eileen's longtime plan to follow her chosen path of medicine was put on hold when her application to McGill's medical school was rejected. Luckily, a savvy professor had urged her to apply in advance for a scholarship to do a Masters of Science at Vassar College, knowing full well Eileen, being female, would never have a chance, despite her top marks, against the deluge of returning war veterans applying to McGill. It was a defining moment, she recalled: "Having never been treated differently because I was a female student, I was heartbroken when I was not accepted at McGill, and especially so when some non-vet men were accepted."

Happily, after a year at Vassar, Eileen's determination was rewarded when her second attempt to apply to McGill was accepted and coincided with the equally improbable presence of another student in the same class named Ken Cambon (ironically, one of those returning veterans, a POW captured in the Battle of Hong Kong). The class of '51 marked the beginning of a long partnership in marriage, family and professional practice for Eileen (Ophthalmology) and Ken (Otolaryngology). .

Eileen detested the cold and the harsh New Brunswick winters, and Montreal was definitely not an improvement. Given the elements, it's not surprising Eileen was enthusiastic when the opportunity came to work in tropical Guyana -then a colony of Britain known as British Guiana - and later on in Galveston, Texas, where Eileen and Ken received their respective specialty degrees. Finally, in 1958 they settled in Vancouver B.C. for the warmer winter weather - though she would still wear many layers of sweaters year round.

Eileen was the first female eye surgeon to practice in BC. It wasn't easy getting established but once again her determination prevailed and became an inspiration to others who faced similar challenges defying prevailing norms. For many years, Eileen was an active member of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, serving as national president in 1973 to 1974. Following her retirement, Eileen embarked on an ambitious project to chronicle the history, struggles and stories of women physicians in B.C. from 1893 to 1993. Uppity Women We Are: A 100-Year History of Medical Women of British Columbia was published in 2008.

A woman with boundless curiosity about all living things and the world we inhabit, Eileen believed relentlessly in the right to human dignity and self-determination regardless of race or gender or place of origin. She was a physician devoted to her patients for forty-four years.

Eileen, mom, grandma, great-grandma, we love you and will miss you.

Eileen's family would like to express heartfelt gratitude for the support of her outstanding caregivers, Ken Schonberger and Sandra Baldo. The family would also like to thank Erlyn Bacagan, Zeny Cordero, Gloria Christian and Laura McFadyen. Many thanks to the care team and staff at Sunrise Retirement Living who cared for Eileen these last few months. Special thanks to care managers, Rose, Marsha, Helene, Joti and Debbie.

Eileen is mourned by her daughters Noreen and Marie Cambon, grandchildren Sybrand Kamermans and Harrison Kamermans, great-grandson Kai Fakan, cousin Robert Nason, brother-in-law Austen Cambon as well as other family members and many, many colleagues and friends.

Donations can be made to one of the many non-profit programs Eileen supported such as, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, CNIB, YWCA, YMCA and Union Gospel Mission. A celebration of life ceremony is planned for a future date.

Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province on Aug. 19, 2017
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