Bergen, Helen Willms (1925-2003)

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Helen Willms Bergen: missionary nurse; born on 25 May 1925 in Ladekopp, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Ukraine, the fourth child of Abram J. Willms (1893-1976) and Susanna (Epp) Willms (1896-1972). Helen married Peter S. Bergen (27 November 1921, Schönhorst, Chortitza Mennonite Settlement, Ukraine - 4 September 2002, Coaldale, Alberta, Canada) on 23 July 1994 in Coaldale, Alberta. Helen died on 21 January 2003 in Coaldale, Alberta.

Helen came to Canada with her family in November 1925. The family lived in various places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, settling finally in the Coaldale, Alberta area. Although she left school after grade nine because she had to help on the family farm, a trip to British Columbia introduced her to the Mennonite Educational Institute in Abbotsford, where she completed high school.

Willms followed her younger sister to the Galt Hospital School of Nursing in Lethbridge, Alberta, graduating in 1952. She became a staff nurse in the hospital in Altona, Manitoba and continued her education at the University of Manitoba, receiving a certificate of Public Health Nursing in 1954. Willms then became a missionary nurse with Mennonite Pioneer Mission on Matheson Island, Manitoba, where she served until 1957.

In 1957, Helen left for Taiwan to become a nurse in Hualien at the Mennonite Christian Hospital, established in 1954 by the Commission on Overseas Missions of the General Conference Mennonite Church. Here Willms worked in the areas of public health and pediatrics. From 1962-1972 she served as director of nursing in the School of Nursing founded by Susan Martens in 1959 in which the emphasis was on providing training for local indigenous women. In 1973 Willms started traveling to an outpatient clinic 100 kilometers outside of Hualien, first for one day a week and then two. By the time of her retirement in 1991 she had received two awards from the Taiwanese government for her humanitarian work.

Helen Willms returned to Coaldale, Alberta, where she married Peter Bergen in 1994. Helen died in 2003. Her funeral was marked by tributes to her compassion and dedication from a number of her students from the Mennonite Christian Hospital in Taiwan.


Faculty of Nursing, University of Lethbridge. "History of Nursing (N4850): Oral History Project fonds: Helen Willms interview ID # 95.7.14."

Kehler, Susan Martens. Journey of Many Steps: A History of Mennonite Christian Hospital Nursing School. Hualien, Taiwan: Mennonite Christian Hospital, 2002.

Klassen, Irene, and others. Their Mark, Their Legacy. Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta, Calgary, Alberta, 2006.

Mennonite Christian Hospital. “Beacon of the East.” Web.

Mennonite Church Canada. “Mennonite Christian Hospital in Taiwan honors Mission Worker.” 19 April 2004. Web.

Author(s) Wesley Berg
Date Published September 2010

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MLA style

Berg, Wesley. "Bergen, Helen Willms (1925-2003)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2010. Web. 7 Aug 2020.,_Helen_Willms_(1925-2003)&oldid=94081.

APA style

Berg, Wesley. (September 2010). Bergen, Helen Willms (1925-2003). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 August 2020, from,_Helen_Willms_(1925-2003)&oldid=94081.

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