Friday, September 29, 2023
September 29, 2023

Helen KEYS

Helen Keys, nee McLean and formerly MacNicol

April 23, 1933 – Jan. 8, 2016

In deepest sorrow we announce the death of our wife, mother and grandmother, Helen Keys, most recently of Sidney B.C., on Friday, January 8, 2016.

Born in Dawson Creek, B.C. (April 23, 1933), the first child of Isobel Allen of Fredericton, NB and Donald McLean of Moose Jaw, SK. Helen grew up in Trail, B.C. She graduated with a B. Comm. from UBC in 1956 where she was president of the UBC chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.  

Helen began her professional career in 1956 as one of the first female financial analysts and advisors with Gardiner & Company Investment Brokers in Toronto. She subsequently married James MacNicol and moved to Regina, where she worked for the Saskatchewan government as its first female analyst and later economist. She left active employment to begin, and raise, her family of four children.

In 1970 Helen returned to professional work, beginning a distinguished eighteen-year career with the federal government, first with CIDA, followed by the Departments of Finance; Industry, Trade and Commerce; and Foreign Affairs; including two successive appointments as Canadian Trade Commissioner to China and secondments to the governments of New Zealand, and Alberta, as well as the Asia Pacific Foundation. In her various professional roles Helen travelled extensively to first and third world countries and represented Canada at meetings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Helen retired in 1988.

Helen married the love of her life, Gordon Keys, in 1980, and for the past 35 years they worked, loved and travelled the world together.

After retirement, Helen and Gordon worked with architect Hank Schubert to design and build their dream home on Salt Spring Island,  where she sat on the board of the Lady Minto Hospital and was appointed Alternate to the Salt Spring Island representative on the Capital Regional District (CDR).

Helen also pursued her creative side during retirement, becoming a talented and prolific quilter, stitcher and sewer, winning many ribbons in the Salt Spring Island and Saanich Fall Fairs, which were as rewarding to her as her professional accomplishments.

Helen was an inspiring leader with extraordinary vitality, great strength, dignity and grace. She was loved by many whose lives she touched. Her physical health began to deteriorate a number of years ago, the extent of which was known only to those closest to her, but her involvement with the world around her and her desire to leave the world a better place never flagged. Her suffering was great and her patience in bearing it while maintaining her sense of humor was inspiring to those who surrounded her to the end.

Helen’s family would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the entire team of medical professionals of the renal unit of the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, for their compassionate care, understanding, and support, especially Dr. Caroline Stigant.  Finally, we express our thanks to Helen’s family doctor of 25 years, Dr. Ron Reznik, who delivered kind and attentive medical attention to Helen through the years.

Helen was pre-deceased by her brother Jack (John) McLean.

In addition to her husband, Gordon Keys, she leaves behind her sister Joanne McDonald  (David) of Vancouver  and brother Donald McLean  (Janice), of Oakville, ON. Her four children: Dr. Bruce MacNicol (Cynthia), Barrie, ON; Barbara Varro (Dean), Oakville, ON; Joanne MacNicol, Calgary, AB; Fraser MacNicol, Calgary, AB; her two stepdaughters Susan Keys (Robert Myles)  Montreal, P.Q. and Nancy Keys (Ezio Nadalin), Petrolia, ON; and her eight grandchildren: Brendan and Alix Varro;  Calum and Cheryl MacNicol; Blaire and Rhys MacNicol , and Caitlin and Emily Myles.

Condolences may be sent to,

A service celebrating Helen’s life will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2016, 11:30 am in the Sallas Room of the Sidney Pier Hotel, 9805 Seaport Pl, Sidney, B.C. In lieu of flowers, a donation to the charity of your choice would be appreciated.

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