We were saddened to hear of the passing of a dear friend of the Victoria Foundation. Belsonia Paul (June 6, 1920 – December 24, 2014) passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve in Victoria, BC.
Bel was a dedicated and passionate community activist. Her interests in community development and seniors resulted in her involvement in many organizations working for the betterment of community and society as a whole.
Her professional life included work as a psychiatric social worker in New York, Colorado, and later in San Francisco. She received a Masters of Public Health from the University of California and spent 23 years with the LA County Health Services, training young street people to “spread the word, not the disease.” Bel traveled the world, combining business with pleasure; in Sweden participating in a Youth Leaders Work Study Program for a month; participating in the International Conference on Health Education in Paris in 1973, and the UN Conference on World Population in Bucharest in 1974.
Bel moved to Victoria in 1977 and James Bay was the fortunate community in which she and her husband decided to live. Retirement is not a word one would apply to Bel. In Victoria, she quickly became immersed in local community endeavours and was a founding Board member of Seniors Serving Seniors in 1981. She had been involved in Prime Time Women’s Project, James Bay Community School/Centre, James Bay Multi-level Care Society, and Long Term Care Citizens Association prior to the founding of Seniors Serving Seniors. Bel saw first-hand the need to bring a collaborative approach to providing services to seniors. In Bel’s own words, “…and it only took until 2001 to see the vision materialize!” The Elder Friendly Community Network now exists, bringing together a wide diversity of groups serving seniors, thus avoiding much duplication of resources and energies.
In 1985, Bel was elected to the James Bay Community Project Board and gave 12 years of dedicated service. Her warmth, wisdom and tenacity of purpose are remembered fondly by those who were privileged to work with her.
Bel was a strong believer in human rights, and that with those rights, come responsibilities which she urged everyone to fulfill. Bel was a committed advocate for social responsibility within community, and our community has benefitted greatly from her advocacy and passion.
In her “spare time”, Bel enthusiastically supported the arts community in Greater Victoria, namely Pacific Opera Victoria, the Belfry Theatre, the Victoria Symphony and the Victoria Philharmonic Choir.
Bel was well-known for her philanthropic generosity through the Belsonia Bogatin Paul & Frank Paul Foundation, a fund established at the Victoria Foundation in 1999. She was also involved in the creation of the Pacific Coast Public Television Association Fund in support of KCTS-TV. For over 15 years Bel supported organizations that she was passionate about in both the arts and social services areas. Her gifts have had a large impact in our community and have demonstrated inspired leadership. As a Victoria Circle member, Bel also ensured this generosity continued after her lifetime through additional gifts of life insurance policy proceeds to her fund.
We are grateful to Bel Paul who cared deeply, lived fully, and provided an inspirational example of what the generosity of spirit truly means.