Helen Bouzak – Looking after the widows



Not all heroes wear uniforms.  Wars create widows, widowers and orphans.  The test of a country and its leaders is how they deal with this newly created class of citizens.

I wrote a story earlier about Joe Bouzek and his war-time Black Ops project, Buzz-Bombing of the Peace Tower.  I mentioned, at that time, that Joe’s wife, Helen, was an interesting character on her own.

Born in Bateman, Saskatchewan, a village of about 300 people at its peak, Helen Bedford was a one-year-old when the First World War ended.  She lived a normal life in a small town; went to school from kindergarten to grade 11 at the same small local school; played in the wheat fields around the town; and longed to get out of Bateman to see the world.  She endured the dust bowl drought of 1929 and the depths of the depression from 1929-39.  But Helen was a resilient person.  When she put her mind to improvement… improvement became her middle name.

Following graduation in 1933, Helen went to work in the Bateman Post Office.  In 1937 she travelled to Saskatoon to take a secretarial course and then back to Bateman where she completed her grade 12.  Her life centred around her job at the Bateman post office until 1939… the year the Second World War was declared.

Helen may not have been free to see the world, but she enjoyed relocating to Ottawa… and relished her new challenges.  She moved into a small apartment with three other women and began a new job at the Defense Department.  As the war progressed a new class of citizen was being created in large numbers… widows and orphans.  Helen, by now experienced in Dependent Allowances, was made part of a task force to create an allowance program for the new and growing group of Canadians.  She ultimately headed the team that implemented the new allowance program and ran it until 1945.

Being brought up during the depression years, Helen was understandably cautious with her money.  By 1942 she had accumulated enough to purchase, with her older sister, a home in the McKellar Park (Westboro) area of Ottawa.  The house she purchased had a history in itself.  Not many know that McKellar Park was formerly called McKellar Park Golf Course.  The house Helen had purchased was the former home of the Greenskeeper.  She resided in this home until her death in 2010.

In September of 1945, Helen Bedford married Sgt. Joe Bouzek of Stewart BC.  After the war, Joe set up a radio repair company and Helen kept his books.

In 1951, Helen and Joe expanded their family with the arrival of their son, Donald.

In 1957, Helen returned to the federal public service with a position at Statistics Canada.  Her experience with Dependent Allowances proved valuable.  At the time she was hired as a Clerk 1 married women would not be promoted beyond a Clerk IV level.  Incensed at this inequity, she became active in the Union, working as secretary to Al Papineau, who was its President.  By 1977, Helen had received seven promotions and became head of a pensions unit with a title of Supervisor.  In this role she was instrumental in changing the civil service pension plan to include a feature that paid half of the woman’s pension to a legal spouse, following her death… a feature that did not exist previously.

After an interesting career of public service, Helen retired in 1978.  She lived out her days, with husband Joe, travelling across Canada in a camper van, playing cards and tending her flower and vegetable gardens.