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Helen Stevenson-Galpin

$800.00 (raised so far)

About Helen Stevenson-Galpin

Graduating in Social Work from UBC in 1940, Helen Marie Stevenson-Galpin was well known for her adventurous spirit and zest for life. Born and raised in Vancouver, after the Second World War she moved with her husband Richard Galpin to Detroit, where she raised a family of four. She then returned to BC, serving as a medical social worker at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, before retiring to Comox on Vancouver Island. She passed away in December 2012 at the age of 97, a wonderful example of a life well-lived.

Helen was well known for both an adventurous spirit and also a commitment to her communities. Her travels by land and sea were legendary, highlights of which included solo-trekking the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, sailing to the Queen Charlotte Islands and several road trips to Mexico.

Helen also had a huge capacity for giving. Whilst in Detroit, she devoted her life to her family and her community. Her love of art and music, combined with her generous community spirit, led her to found art centres, jazz festivals and kite festivals as she raised her family. Her commitment to helping others continued upon her return to BC, where her full career at Royal Inland Hospital had a positive effect on many patients. She was also a devoted lover of pets and, after retiring to Vancouver Island, remained a committed companion to animals to her last days.

Helen possessed a generosity of spirit and wonderful capacity to wring the best out of each day, even when it seemed impossible. She was an example of how to find joy in life and live every day to its fullest. She always cherished her widespread family, with whom she liked nothing more than sharing stories and hearing about others’ life experiences.  She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.

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The impact of your support

Helen’s family has created the Helen Marie Stevenson-Galpin Prize in her memory. The prize will be awarded to UBC students studying social work, as a tribute to all Helen did for her communities, patients, family and friends during her life. The prize will have a particular focus on a student’s community or international service, in keeping with Helen’s adventurous and generous life.

Your gift will provide both financial help and recognition to outstanding students. The costs of a university education keep rising, and your support will help ensure that UBC social work students are able to afford and work towards a career in the field that was so close to Helen’s heart.

Messages of Remembrance

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  • My mother was an amazing woman. Full of grace, hard as steel, compassionate, intelligent, humorous, inquisitive and filled with a sense of adventure. Stories of her adventures will continue to be told as long as those of us who knew her can tell them (Mexico road trip anyone?). One I will always remember was her trip to Afghanistan in 1987. She was 72 years old. I was working for an organization training Mujahideen guerrilla medics to fight the Russians (at that time we were the “good guys”). Our main camp was near a village called Thal. Located at the tip of a peninsula of Pakistan that juts toward Kabul: less than ten miles, as the crow flies, north of the Russian garrison at Khost, deep inside the Northwest Frontier Provinces (NWFP) of Pakistan. The NWFP is just that, the frontier: lawless, dangerous, unpredictable and violent. In order to get to Thal you have to travel for hours by back roads through what was recently described in a 2009 documentary (twenty two years later) as “the most dangerous place in the world.” The nearest “town” was Dhara. There were only two products in Dhara: weapons and drugs. All homes in the NWFP are walled and armed (status is conferred by the caliber of weaponry. Those with .50 cal and above mounted on the roof were the upper class). Our only contact with the more “secure” Peshawar was radio, irregular phone service, and a twice weekly courier. One day the courier arrives with a telegram which read: “Arrive Peshawar Tuesday stop Please meet me stop Mum.” What??? This is a War Zone??? By this point (given how long it had taken the telegram to reach me), the only choice was to hop in with the courier on the return run. My mum arrived and headed back to Thal with me where she spent several weeks helping in the hospital and charming even the most hard-bitten Mujahid, who acted like chagrined schoolboys in her presence. She truly charmed everyone she met: kids, elders, Americans, Pakistanis, soldiers and civilians. She wandered the village making friends and, to this day, guys I served with ask about her. I've attached a photo taken one afternoon, up in the hills. The hospital/camp was armed, and we used to go weekly to the hills for target practice and just to get out of the camp. This is a photo taken on one of those jaunts. It still makes me smile to see my mother in camo in front of an ambulance: happy, and adventurous. She left after a few weeks, and then spent several weeks trekking the Hindu Kush Mountains by herself. Truly, an inspiring role model. I recently received a condolence card which captures some of my feelings: “Her spirit is now free to fly where ever it desires.” Godspeed, mum.

    Peter Galpin, Son
  • I remember my Mom, Helen Galpin as an individual who strove to think and act outside the box. She and I didn't always agree, but she did attempt to see things my way if they were something she had never contemplated before. I often gained a partner in crime on those. I got my love for adventure, and traveling from Mom, her love for flowers, gardening, animals, big & small, feathered,and furry she has passed onto me. The memories, will always be in my heart.

    Lindley, Daughter
  • I was lucky to have had Helen as a mother in law and to have married into the Stevenson-Galpin clan, marrying her oldest son Ken. After Ken hung up his racing gloves, we started a tradition of going sailing for our holidays over to the Gulf Islands. The first year we chartered a boat and headed out for our adventure. We would normally go the last week of August and the first few weeks of Sept as the weather was still nice and warm. Ken would like to drop anchor away from the rest of the other boats so when he found a lovely little cove where only one boat could fit, he was pleased as punch. Helen would come and join us for a week since Ken's birthday fell during that time of year. This one particular night, floating in the little bay, the sun providing a spectacular show of different shades of red, orange we sat on the bow of the sailboat and enjoyed a glass of champagne. All of a sudden, right in front of our cove, a mother Killer Whale and her baby surfaced and started to play. They stayed in front of our little cove and entertained us for a good half our and then went on their way. That was the start of many more spectacular trips, sights and adventures the three of us would have together. I miss them both.

    Mary Bodo Galpin, Daughter in Law
List of Donors
  • Richard & Veronica Killam

  • Rosemary Lyle

  • Hassan Said

  • Ralph Sayle

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