The late Helen Martin

The late Helen Martin

Helen’s hats helping Victoria Hospice

Helen Martin always had an appreciation for getting dressed up at parties and other social events.

Helen Martin always had an appreciation for getting dressed up at parties and other social events.

It was at one of those events she was given a unique hat that someone thought would look great on her.

Little did they know, that hat sparked the Esquimalt resident to start collecting hats for the next 15 years, leading her to become a regular at Roberta’s Hats in downtown Victoria. Eventually it got to the point if someone wanted to give Helen a present, she requested a gift certificate from the store, recalled her daughter Victoria.

“I thought it was great. You went in there and they knew her. There would be certain hats that they were sure would be really good for her,” said Victoria, noting the hats her mother collected were big, tea party kind of hats.

“She wore them all the time. In the last five years of her life she would always have a hat on. A lot of people remember her wearing those hats.”

During those 15 years, Helen’s hat collection grew to more than 200, which she proudly displayed in the bedroom of her Esquimalt home. More big bags packed with hats were found in her closet when she passed away in December 2015 at the age of 80 at the Amica retirement home in Sidney.

A former public nurse in the Cowichan Valley, Helen loved her work and Esquimalt, where she later moved and retired in order to take care of her ailing husband. She also became involved in several community initiatives, including a campaign for the crosswalk on Esquimalt Road, and had an appreciation for the Victoria Hospice, which entered her life when her husband died in 1996.

“They not only provided for my mom and dad, they took care of the whole family. Everyone was involved and they continued to provide support when my dad died,” said Victoria, noting her mother had been talking about donating her hats to hospice for the last three years of her life.

That talk has since turned into action. Next month, the hospice will be hosting the sold out Hats for Hospice Tea Party & Hat Auction, where Helen’s extensive hat collection will be auctioned off with proceeds going to hospice.

Years before her death, Helen met with hospice to discuss how her hats could be used to ensure accessible end-of-life care for those in the Greater Victoria area. In a typical year, close to 40 per cent of the funds raised at the hospice come from gifts like Helens.

Knowing her hats are generating money for a cause close to her heart would make Helen proud, added Victoria.

“We are just thrilled they’re going to the hospice and we know my dad would be thrilled. I think it’s a great legacy,” she said, noting her mother was also an artist. “She was a very strong personality and she was passionate and she certainly understood the vulnerabilities of life.”

The Hats for Hospice Tea Party & Hat Auction takes place Sunday, April 23 at The Beach House on Cordova Bay Road. High tea will be served at the event, which also includes a fashion show and music by Stephanie Greaves and Darcy Phillips. For more information visit