Dr. Helen Margaret Buss

March 28, 1941 - October 28, 2023


Obituary For Dr. Helen Margaret Buss

Dr. Helen Buss (nee Margaret Clarke)

(Prof Emer. PhD Eng. MA Eng. BA Edu. BA Arts)

Born on March 28, 1941 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Helen passed away on October 28, 2023 in Surrey, B.C.

Dr. Helen Margaret Buss was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, writer and feminist academic. Born in the dawn of WWII, and growing up through the confederation of Newfoundland, Helen was a political creature from the start. Her multiple perspectives, contradictory loyalties and obligations to opposing histories are explored through her body of written works, archived at the University of Calgary, which includes her novels, poetry, dramatic play, memoirs, academic articles, reviews and texts focused on Canadian Women’s Literature and Life Writing.

Early in her career in Winnipeg, her fictional work, The Cutting Season, won the Manitoba New Novelist Competition. While teaching secondary school and working towards her masters and doctorate degrees, she raised her three children with her husband Richard, enjoying summers among family and friends at their beloved Traverse Bay cottage, one of her writing sanctuaries. Another place she liked to write was at her parent’s Florida condo, where her family gathered to share laughter and stories.

During her tenure at the University of Calgary, she was an academic researcher and published extensively. Among her recognitions were the Gabrielle Roy prize for her book Women’s Life Writing: Mapping Ourselves and the Canadian Research Institute Laura Jamieson prize for the Advancement of Women. She also wrote her revisionist play, Gertrude and Ophelia, and her own personal memoir, Memoirs from Away: A New Found Land Girlhood.

After retiring to White Rock, BC, she continued to produce academically through archival research, reviewing, speaking, authoring and co-editing scholarly titles such as, Undelivered Letters to the Hudson’s Bay Men: 1830-1857. She travelled the world with her life-long friend Carol (decd.), explored mountain trails with her hiking club, enjoyed lively debate with her book clubs and encouraged new writers with her adjudication of the Friends of White Rock Library writing competition. She shared this good life with her family and friends, until a tragic pedestrian motor vehicle accident left her in long term care for the final chapter of her life.

Helen was highly engaged with the Post Polycythemia Vera Myelofibrosis research community throughout the 25 year management of her MPN cancer. The family would like to thank the many medical professionals who supported her, especially Dr. L. Foltz of Pacific Hematology and the BCCA, the staff at Royal Columbian and Peace Arch Hospitals, the care-givers at Peace Portal Seniors Village, and her team of therapists who each day, met her where she was at, inspiring her to keep pushing her limits and stay curious in the world.

She is predeceased by her parents Harold and Kathleen Clarke, her infant daughter Tanya, her brother David Clarke (Diane) and husband Richard Buss and survived by her siblings Kathy, Hal (Barb) and Peter (Sandy) Clarke, and her many nieces and nephews from the Clarke and Buss families, whom she cherished. Her sons Michael (Linda) and Matthew, daughter Erica, and grandsons Eric and Alec are left to mourn, relieved that the end of her enduring tale came swiftly.

In Helen’s memoir, she writes, “My Dad says that my birth cry was a scream of absolute anger … when you dig behind the anger at birth as a metaphor, there is a history. There is always a history. You just have to find it … .”. Helen advocated for the personal stories of girls and women, to propel them beyond the confines of the patriarchal structure. She sought to expose the bare truths of systems of oppression, both external and embedded within us.

As per her request, there will be no ceremony. Condolences may be expressed at and and by donating to the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation.

Rest in peace Professor Buss, Helen, Margaret, Grandma, Mom.

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  • November 13, 2023

    I was sorry to hear of Helen's passing, although I was relieved to hearing that her suffering had ended. I enjoyed many trips, dinners and evenings with her. Although we often disagreed, since both of us held firmly to differing points of view, we had been friends since University of Manitoba days. My sincere condolences to Michael, Mathew and Eric.

  • November 11, 2023

    At Dryden High School, Helen and Richard Buss's employment and min overlapped from September 1969 until June 1972. Even the, Helen's involvement with feminism was quite evident. Also evident was her sense that she could and should be elsewhere geographically and educationally. In June 1972, I hived off to Southern Ontario; she and Richard to St James-Assiniboia School Division in Winnipeg. A scant few years thereafter, St J-A's enrolment tanked, and I am going to assume that resulting layoffs might have been the catalyst for Helen's permanent segue into post-secondary education. Thus, to her credit, when life gave her lemons, she very effectively and determinedly made lemonade. It saddens me that I never saw Helen and Richard after 1972, but I am certainly better for having known both of them. Rest well now, Helen!

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