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It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the passing of Helene Marie Van Doninck, DVM, at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre after a struggle with ovarian cancer, which proved to defy any treatment or strength of will. Helene dedicated her life to the treatment of wildlife and, with her husband, established the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in 2001.

Helene was a recognized international expert on the treatment of oiled birds. She single-handedly was succeeding in eliminating the use of lead in hunting and fishing because of its impact on wildlife, especially eagles.

Last month, she was the recipient of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Humane Award “for her dedication to caring for injured wildlife.” However, due to her illness, she was unable to attend the national convention in Vancouver to receive the recognition of her peers in person.

She served as a mentor and leader to hundreds of wildlife lovers. Helene loved life and lived it to the fullest. She loved to laugh. She was protective of her friends and supported all around her.

She is survived by her husband, Murdo Messer, Hilden; Donna Van Doninck, New Waterford; brother Bernie (Mylene Desjardins) and beloved nephews Cooper and Harrison, (Tantallon); Kate Messer, Fiona Messer and Ruth Messer.

She is also survived by a community of wildlife lovers and countless animals and birds to which she gave a future.

To honour Helene’s passion and legacy, donations in her memory can be made to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (

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