Long-time islander leaves Bowen
A long-time islander who is the last of his family on Bowen, George Helenius, is moving to the mainland. Helenius has sold his property and has either given away or sold most possessions and, by the end of May, will no longer be an island resident.
Helenius is the only surviving member of his immediate family, a family that moved over when there were only some 350 people on island; for their first two years on Bowen he said there wasn’t any Hydro. He and his two brothers attended school when the three made up one third of the student population.
“The whole island was open to us. It was our world. Nobody built fences,” he said. He remembers the work they did as kids, work disguised as play. “We’d get hatchets as gifts, real ones, tools to use in the bush. Our parents weren’t stupid, they’d get us to clear the land for them that way.”
He was one of the stronger pitchers the Bowen fastpitch league has produced and said he played for the Bowen Legion branch team. He’s always had a great respect for the people at the Legion, he said, and felt proud to represent the organization as a ball player.
George’s brother Scott died in a fire at 23; the Bowen fastpitch league named their most prestigious trophy (for winning the yearly tournament) after him.
His mother, Rosa, the island’s first postmistress, died in 2001 and his brother Bobby passed in 2008. His father George Senior, an effective local activist and committed politician who won three straight terms as a GVRD rep, died last year.
“I’m gonna miss Bowen but it’s time to move on,” Helenius said. “Every time I turn around, there’s another memory. Some of them are good and some of them bad.”
Helenius has been doing the rounds of saying goodbye to acquaintances and friends and is already spending nights off-island. He’s with friends in Maple Ridge and plans to spend time with his aunt in Princeton.
“People on Bowen have been really good to me and I’m thankful for that but I have a future going forward and job opportunities in Maple Ridge,” he said. “It’s also nearer to my aunt in Princeton, but I’m going to miss the people of Bowen.” Helenius says he’ll be back to visit as often as he can and wishes everyone the best.