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MUSSALLEM, Helen Kathleen
January 7, 1915 - November 9, 2012
Helen Mussallem, an influential figure in Canada's nursing history, died peacefully in Ottawa at age 97. Born fourth of six children of Solomon and Annie Mussallem in Prince Rupert, she was raised in Maple Ridge BC. An intelligent and hardworking student, she became a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) until joining the Royal Canadian Medical Corps in World War II, seeing active duty overseas as an operating room supervisor. After the war, Helen obtained a baccalaureate in nursing at McGill and graduate degrees from Columbia University, the first Canadian nurse to earn a doctorate. Between her studies, Helen was a VGH instructor and later Director of its School of Nursing. She joined the Canadian Nurses Association and moved to Ottawa, becoming Executive Director from 1963 to 1981. Helen was a remarkable nurse leader who contributed tremendously to the nursing profession, shaping the reform of nursing education and the Canadian health system. Helen worked for decades after official "retirement," and served as advisor to national and international health organizations in 38 countries, including her ancestral home of Lebanon. A founder of the Canadian Nurses Foundation and several university scholarships, she has assisted hundreds of nurses to pursue their graduate studies. Helen received many accolades including our nation's highest honour, the Companion of the Order of Canada. She was a Dame of Justice in the Order of St. John, the Capilano Herald of Arms Extraordinary, the first Canadian to receive the Florence Nightingale Medal of the International Red Cross, and recipient of seven honorary doctorates. Known as an elegant and gracious host at her homes in Ottawa and Vancouver, she was at heart a practical person, a reflection of her years as a practicing nurse and her small town upbringing. She stayed in touch with family, friends and colleagues throughout her life. Helen is survived by her many nieces and nephews and predeceased by her parents and siblings George, Mary, Nicholas, Peter and Lily. A service to celebrate Helen's life will be held at West Point Grey United Church, 8th and Tolmie, on January 12 at 1 PM. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Canadian Nurses Foundation, 50 Driveway, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1E2

Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6, 2013
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