January 12, 1924 - December 25, 2023
Helen McNeill died suddenly on December 25, 2023. This was her 100th Christmas. She was just shy of celebrating her 100th birthday on January 12, 2024.
She was born to parents, Ann and Frank Bergen, near Mennon, Saskatchewan. She was always proud of the fact that she helped to farm their land with her team of 4 horses before moving to Ootsa Lake where her parents homesteaded.
She met and married "Cap" McNeill there. She and Cap went on to have three daughters whom she referred to as her "girls" in spite of those girls having children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren themselves.
Helen raised her girls on the shores of Ootsa Lake and stayed there even after the lake was flooded to help create hydro power in the early 1950s. The family eventually relocated to the Fraser Valley and other parts of B.C. including Kaslo and Sicamous.
After Cap's death, she moved to Sherwood Park, Alberta, in 1995. Helen enjoyed living near Pam and Penny and had a close and loving relationship with her granddaughter, Caroline, who was born that year. Her final move was to Burns Lake in 2016 where she felt fortunate to enjoy residency In Tweedsmuir House and to be close to Pat and her family.
Life in the bush was not easy for Helen but she loved being out in nature, camping, prospecting, and hiking in some of B.C.'s wilder spots. She and Cap made many good, life-long friends while showing those friends how to fish and camp in the wild.
She worked as a cook in mining exploration camps and once shot a black bear who made the mistake of chasing her and her dog, Sam, to the cookhouse door. Anyone who visited her at Tweedsmuir House in the summer would notice that she had a passion for flowers.
Travel was also one of her favourite things. She spent many winter holidays in Mexico with Pat. Helen travelled throughout the western United States, usually prospecting with Cap. One of her proudest travel achievements was to circumnavigate the globe as part of one trip with her good friend, Ann Peterson. She was happy to show people the certificate proving that she had made that trip!
The last but by no means the least of things that Helen enjoyed was driving and touring in her own car. Many trips were made made with her dear and long time friend, Joan Patterson. Helen never felt that she should have stopped driving upon her move to Burns Lake.
Above all, Helen's daughters, Pat Beach (Al d.), Penny Frederiksen (Niels), and Pam Berenyi (Zoli) and their families were well-loved by Helen. She adored all of her various grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.
There is a long list of people Helen was grateful to for helping her maintain her independence in her later years.
Wendy and the staff at Tweedsmuir House were amazing. They made Helen feel welcome, safe, and comfortable there. Thank you all on behalf of Helen.
Helen's only surviving sibling, Kitten (Catherine) Fehr, lived next door to Helen at Tweedsmuir House. Kitten was a sister but also a friend to Helen. It was wonderful that Kitten and Helen were able to share a Christmas brunch at Pat's with Quinten, and Sheryl shortly before Helen died on Christmas Day.
On Helen's behalf, Penny and Pam thank Pat for the love and support she provided to Helen after her move to Burns Lake.
All of her girls thank Helen's grandson and his partner (Quinten Beach and Sheryl Worthing) for the care and support they gave Helen in her latter years at Tweedsmuir House. Quinten's children also stepped up to the plate for Helen. The girls thank them too.
Much to Helen's delight, she was also able to meet and enjoy special times with her great-great-granddaughter, Nora.
There will be no funeral at this time. The family will hold a celebration of her life at a future date. If anyone wishes to make a donation in Helen's memory, the family would appreciate that it be directed to Tweedsmuir House or to any organization that supports the conservancy of B.C.'s wild lands and creatures.