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Helen Dawe grew up in Vancouver. She later earned B.A. and B.Comm. degrees from U.B.C. and a B.L.S. from the University of Toronto. During World War II, Dawe enlisted in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (Wrens), took training in various places, and became a leading hand at Joint Services at Jericho Beach and in Halifax. She served as a Petty Officer Coder with the Canadian Naval Mission Overseas in London. After the war, she served as a librarian with the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Dawe returned to B.C. and eventually settled in Sechelt, where she maintains an active interest in local history. She has published several articles in Sechelt newspapers on the history of the area.