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Brigadier-General Sheila Hellstrom

For almost 40 years, long-running CBC game show, Front Page Challenge put an important Canadian lens on significant national and international events.

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Brigadier-General Sheila Hellstrom

The show featured everyone from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King to Willie Mays, Errol Flynn and Lester B. Pearson.

In March 1988 the show’s special guest was Sheila Hellstrom, Canada’s first Brigadier General, a woman who bravely cut a thorny path for the Canadian women who followed her footsteps in the Armed Forces.

Hellstrom, who died 7 December 2020 in Ottawa at the age of 85, was proud of her Front Page Challenge appearance, friends say she often showed the clip.

But it was decades of her hard work and dedication to Canada’s military that is her lasting legacy.

In 1987, Hellstrom became the first woman general when all of the other 130 generals and admirals in the Canadian Armed Forces were men.

“Every woman should be able to do whatever she’s qualified to do,” she once said.

She enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1956 working her way up from administration to Director of Women Personnel.

When she retired in 1990, combat roles had been opened to women.

Hellstrom’s friends remember her as a dignified and humble woman who loved hockey and opera and was proud of her Swedish heritage.

Upon her passing, newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic eulogized her in full page memorials.

Her final front page challenge.

Rest in Power General Hellstrom

Date published: 2021-01-26

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