Helena F. Reimer, C.M.
Helena F. Reimer is a nurse, educator and administrator, a pioneer born Jan. 27, 1905, in Steinbach. She was one of the first nurses in Canada selected to participate overseas in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration during the Second World War.
In 1928, Reimer obtained the highest marks in Manitoba in the Department of Education entrance examination and taught for several years thereafter. In 1937, she completed training as a registered nurse at Winnipeg General Hospital and dedicated herself to the service of humankind. Reimer held several positions during her career at the Winnipeg General Hospital, as a general nurse, instructor, supervisor and assistant superintendent.
Her first assignment with United Nations in 1944 was in a refugee camp at Tolumbat camp, Egypt. In 1946, Reimer was transferred to Taiwan/China and worked there to implement proper nursing care and training until 1949. She resumed work overseas in 1951, this time under the World Health Organization, and was stationed in Cambodia as a nursing consultant. Reimer spent two years in Cambodia before she was transferred to Egypt where she was instrumental in the founding of the Higher Institute of Nursing, a part of the University of Alexandria. She served there as an administrator from 1953-1956.
Historian Susan Armstrong-Reid stated that “Reimer had a voracious appetite for hard work, and besides her nursing duties, quickly launched some relief programs until welfare members of her could arrive.” Her creed was “adapting yourself to your environment, improving conditions when possible, accepting those that could not be improved, then doing what could be done cheerfully.”
In 1957, Reimer accepted the position of secretary registrar of the Association of Nurses of the Province of Quebec, where she worked until her retirement in 1970. Reimer spent her retirement in Winnipeg, volunteering with the elderly, teaching English to refugees and taking courses.
Reimer valued higher education and demonstrated this through her work as an educator, and as a student. In 1951, she earned her bachelor of nursing from McGill University, and in 1957 she obtained a master’s degree in nursing administration from the University of Chicago. Others recognized Reimer’s commitment, accomplishments and standard of excellence. In 1974, she received an honourary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg, and in the same year, was named to the Order of Canada for over 30 years of service and dedication in the field of nursing in Canada and abroad. In 1977, Reimer received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
Helena F. Reimer was a skilled administrator and a passionate humanitarian. She was a lifelong member of the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church. Her faith in God informed all she did. Reimer died in 1993. Her photos and correspondence are at the Mennonite Heritage Archives, Winnipeg. Reimer’s Order of Canada medal is at the Mennonite Heritage Village, in Steinbach.