Owner behind iconic Burnaby sign remembered as strong businesswoman

Helen Arnold, owner of a proud institution - Helen's Children's Wear, which graced Hastings Street in Burnaby Heights for 50 years - has passed away.

She died on Dec. 15. She was 99.

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Arnold, best known for the iconic swinging girl sign she commissioned (which still swings over the neighbourhood, though it now says Heights) and the store she ran, was a fixture in the neighbourhood from 1958 to 2008, according to Burnaby Heights Merchants Association executive director Isabel Kolic.

“As you know, she was a businesswoman here since the 1950s,” she said. “She was really well known in the neighbourhood, both as a salesperson – because people shopped there from all over the region, not just Burnaby – but also for just being a really kind and caring woman and member of the community.”

She added that people remembered her and her husband fondly.

Jack Kuyer, owner of Valley Bakery, remembered her help getting Hats Off Day off the ground.

"When Helen was in business, I considered her a business friend. She was always very supportive. In the early days, when we were getting Hats Off Day started, she was one of the first ones on board. She just wanted to work with the merchants in the area,” he said. “She was very proud of her business. She loved being the icon that she became.”

Her family was well-known in the neighbourhood as well, he said.

“Her husband also frequented the Heights. They did their shopping in this community,” Kuyer said. “She was warm, very social, smiling – always interested in what was going on in the community."

Rino Cioffi, owner of Cioffi’s Group, remembered her as a kind person.

“Helen was awesome, a real sweetheart. She came up to me when she was retiring and told me, ‘I promised your dad that I would sell him this building,’” Cioffi said. “My dad had already passed away some years earlier, but she kept her promise. She pulled out the BC assessment and said, ‘Just pay me this.’”

He was saddened by the news that she had died.

“She was also so generous and always gave our girls her special collectible dolls at Christmas. That's the kind of woman she was,” he said. “I am really sad to learn of her passing and was quite upset that I didn't find out sooner.”

There is an online memorial page for Arnold here.

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