Ellen Dorman

Ellen nursing a baby at the Infant`s Hospital, 1920s or 30s.
Young Ellen working as a nurse.

Ellen Dorman

Volunteer Nurse

1910-2004

During the 6 decades she spent on Bowen, no-one was more central to the island’s community than Ellen Dorman.

Born Margaret Ellen King in 1910, Ellen planned from childhood to train and work as a nurse. By 25, she was running McKay Private Nursing Home in Vancouver. While at a party held at her sister’s house across the street from the home, Percy “Ped” Dorman’s singing voice caught Ellen’s ear, and she soon married into the family of early Bowen residents.

Living part-time on Bowen while running her Vancouver nursing home, Ellen became known to islanders as the Angel of Bowen for her work as one of its volunteer nurses. For 30 years she crossed swamps and mountains to treat Bowen’s residents and their animals besides, always refusing to accept a cent of payment. If you, your dog, your cat, or even your horse were injured, you called Ellen Dorman or fellow volunteer nurse Kay McNeil—anywhere, any time.

Even when she wasn’t nursing, Ellen took care of the island. She was a tireless community organizer, lending her support to causes close to her heart. When she grew tired of holding Mass in basements and empty classrooms, she began raising funds to build a second church on Bowen. The regular Strawberry Tea events she organized were key to funding the project. With the fundraising campaign well underway, the group she helmed even received a letter of thanks from the Archbishop of Vancouver for their troubles.

She took a similar role in organizing the creation of Crippen Park, and in saving the old Union Steamship General Store from demolition. Throwing her support behind David Paul Smith and the Park and Store Society, she acted as treasurer for the group. The flea market she organized for the store and park’s benefit continued to run long after the store building moved to its current site. Bowen’s first aid station and fire hall also benefited from her fundraising efforts, and she spent many years running the Royal Canadian Legion Auxiliary kitchen.

In 1978, Ellen was Bowen’s first Citizen of the Year. It is, perhaps, a good thing that each recipient can only win once, or she might have won it every year following.

with visiting priest at St. Gerards, Ellen on left (probably)
Ellen with a visiting priest at St. Gerards.
Ellen at the general store reopening
Ellen speaking at the formal reopening of the general store, 1984.
Ellen wearing a pink sash and a white dress stands beside a man in what looks like an 18th century British naval uniform.
Ellen is honoured as the first ever Citizen of the Year at Bowfest, 1978. She is accompanied by a man in historical costume.

To read more about other extraordinary women from Bowen Island, head back this way.