Helen began her spirit journey at Toronto General Hospital surrounded by loved ones. She was born on the traditional lands of Sachigo Lake First Nation.
She was five years old when she started attending residential school. First at Pelican Lake near Sioux Lookout, Ontario, and then at Shingwauk in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. While attending high school in Sault Ste. Marie, she boarded with Edna and John Boileau, known to her as Nannie and Papa. She was treated as a member of their family, and she would continue to visit with the Boileau's throughout her life as opportunities arose.
After completing high school, she attending Plummer School of Nursing, graduating in 1968. She had a 45 year career in nursing, working in outpost nursing, and intensive care and critical care units throughout the province. She attended Lakehead University to complete her HBScN, graduating in 1991. After convocation, she began working as a health policy analyst with Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN). During her time there, she sat on many boards and committees, she also contributed to research, always working with the goal to improve health care in the north. In 2007, she started working at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) as the Special Advisor on First Nations Health until her retirement in 2013. She was proud that her career started at the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital and ended in SLMHC.
After retirement, she continued to work, providing her wisdom and knowledge as an elder. She would attend meetings, provide counselling, perform ceremonies, and was known at NAN as "Auntie Helen." In 2016, Lakehead University bestowed upon her an honorary doctorate in science. However, the call to nursing was so strong, that during the COVID pandemic, she felt the need to contribute. She worked with NAN attending virtual meetings planning their COVID response before resuming her work as an elder once the world opened up again.
In addition to her long and distinguished career, she was also the proud wife of Dennis Cromarty, mother of Dennis Jr., Karen, Isaac, Thomas, and Elliott, and Kokum (grandmother) to Anne, Charlotte, and Piper. She passed her time with gardening, sewing, knitting, puzzles (word and jigsaw), reading, baking, cooking, and family road trips. She believed in the healing nature of the land, and enjoyed time out at camp and going fishing. Family was important to her, and she treated everyone who walked through her door as family. Her organizational skills were unmatched and unparalleled.
She is predeceased by her husband, Dennis Sr., her son Dennis Jr., her parents Alexander and Katie Barkman, her siblings Sabine Barkman, Mary Chapman, Margaret Bancroft, Juliet Beardy, John Barkman, Richard Barkman, and Alabina Barkman.
Survived by her children Karen MacDougall, Isaac (Kerry) Cromarty, Thomas (Will) Cromarty, and Elliott (Alyssa) Cromarty, her grandchildren, Anne MacDougall (Karen), and Charlotte and Piper Cromarty (Isaac), and her siblings Jemima Wesley, Victoria Maxwell, Bernice Matthews, David Barkman, Esther Wesley, and numerous nieces, nephews, and other relations.
Service to be presided by Andrew Wesley, on Friday, September 29, 2023 at 11:00 am, at the Norwester Hotel.
Helen continued to be active and supportive at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School (DFCHS). In lieu of flowers, and due to allergies, please donate to Northern Nishnawbe Education Council to help build a new school and living centre for DFCHS. Please see http://www.nnec.on.ca and the donate now link at the top. Online condolences may be expressed at www.sargentandson.com.