Helen Hughes, long-serving Victoria city councillor, dead at 89

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Helen Hughes is being remembered as a dedicated civil servant and volunteer who served the City of Victoria on council for 18 years. (Royal Roads University - image credit)
Helen Hughes is being remembered as a dedicated civil servant and volunteer who served the City of Victoria on council for 18 years. (Royal Roads University - image credit)

Helen Hughes, who served as a city councillor in British Columbia's capital city for close to two decades, has died.

Hughes was first elected to Victoria's city council in 1990 and spent 18 years at city hall. According to former Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe, Hughes died May 13. She was 89.

An Order of Canada recipient, Hughes is remembered as a committed volunteer who dedicated much of her time to improving life for Victoria's young people.

Hughes launched the Souper Bowls of Hope fundraiser for the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society, which is now an annual event bringing in thousands of dollars each year for youth programs. She also helped organize an action team in the capital region that works with sexually-exploited youth.

"Helen was a youth at heart," said Lowe, speaking Monday to On The Island.

Lowe and Hughes had remained close after retiring together in 2008. Lowe said he enjoyed many dinners with Helen and her late husband Ted Hughes — B.C.'s first conflict of interest commissioner — in their golden years. Ted died in 2020.

Funny, caring and stubborn

Charlayne Thornton-Joe is a current Victoria city councillor who says Hughes convinced her to get into civic politics. They sat next to each other for years in their roles, kicking off what would become a long friendship.

Thornton-Joe remembers Hughes as a funny, caring role model who was dedicated to improving the city she loved and who, despite being stubborn when she felt she needed to be, always asked how others were and kept a positive outlook.

"Community was everything for her," said Thornton-Joe. "Continue that community spirit and hoist a glass of something in her honour."

Hughes received an honorary degree from Royal Roads University in 2012. According to the school's website, Hughes was born in Vancouver and moved to Saskatoon in 1950. She earned a bachelor of science degree in home economics from the University of Saskatchewan in 1954 and married Ted that year.

Hughes served on city council in Saskatoon in the 1970s and her Order of Canada recognizes the work she did in that province to improve services for urban Indigenous people.

Since coming back to B.C. in 1980, Hughes worked for the Ombudsman's office, joined the B.C. Council of Human Rights, was a member of the Victoria Public Library Board, launched a graffiti-cleaning initiative and received a Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ted and Helen were married for more than 60 years and had four children.

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