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For all their years on Bowen, the Adams sisters were as inseparable as they were essential to the community at Tunstall Bay.
Lilian Eleanor and Mary Bethel “Maisie” Adams, born approximately 1908 in Vancouver’s West End. They grew up comfortably in town with their parents, contractor George Adams and Wilhelmina Bethel Adams. Like many others, they spent summer after summer in a family cottage on Bowen at the Union Steamship Resort. Had the family not hiked over to Tunstall Bay to see the area for a day—no mean feat at the time, as the area’s status as a former dynamite factory site prevented any official connections to Snug Cove—that might have been their only link to the island. Instead, they fell in love with the bay, and their father negotiated the purchase of Canadian Industries’ entire property.
The family relocated to their new home at Tunstall Bay in 1936 and began developing the property. Maisie and Lilian would spend all their years on Bowen at work on this project. First, this was with their father, and then on their own after his passing. When they first arrived, the only structures on the property were the remains of factory buildings. Then, once the family built the house, they began learning to live without the amenities of the mainland. Boats brought in supplies until they lengthened their private road enough to connect with an existing road, on which they drove the island’s first jeep for many years.
Newly equipped with hands-on development experience, the Adams sisters initially planned to convert some of their property into a resort, but the Second World War interrupted them. Not to be sidelined, Maisie volunteered as a member of the Ground Observer Corps. There, she became part of a nationwide system that supplemented radar systems for 8 years. In place of a resort, the two sisters initiated the Sealeigh Park subdivision project. This created the island’s first strata organization and became the centre of a growing community. Well-known to their friends and neighbours for their hospitality and penchant for old-fashioned afternoon teas, the two put just as much effort into practical concerns like a local water utility for their lots.
Both Lilian’s and Maisie’s concern for islanders extended far beyond Tunstall Bay. The two were early members of many of Bowen’s oldest and most significant community groups. They were founding members of the Bowen Island Historians and significant to the Garden Club and Bowen Island Improvement Association. In the latter, they protested the attempted clearcutting of the Union Steamship land that has become Crippen Park. Both were key members of the Friends of the Library while working to establish the current library. Evidently, their efforts paid off, as the first library card ever issued there was Maisie’s!
When Lilian and Maisie retired to West Vancouver in 1992, they were sent off with a gathering of friends from their 56 years on the island, recognizing their role in making Bowen Island feel like home.