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‘Canada’s first lady of jazz’ and TV pioneer, B.C.’s Eleanor Collins dead at 104

Surrey resident was a groundbreaking figure in Canadian entertainment history

Singer and 1950s-era television show host Eleanor Collins, considered “Canada’s first lady of jazz,” has died at the age of 104 at Surrey Memorial Hospital, her family says.

A Surrey resident, Collins died peacefully on Sunday morning (March 3), according to an email from family representative Christine Hagemoen.

Born in Edmonton in 1919, Collins was a groundbreaking figure in Canadian entertainment history, and had a longtime association working with Vancouver’s leading musicians on CBC radio and television.

Collins was among the first Black artists in North America to star in their own national television series (“The Eleanor Show” in 1955), and was also the first Canadian female artist to have her own series.

Earlier, in 1939, she moved to the Vancouver area where she met and became life partners with Richard (Dick) Collins, with whom she had four children (Rick, Judith, Barry and Tom).

In the late 1940s, the young Collins family moved to their new home in the then all-white neighbourhood of Burnaby, a bio notes. “To combat the ignorance and misguided attitudes of her new neighbours, the Collins’ immersed themselves in their new community by participating in local activities, events and organizations.

“By showing their new neighbours that they were ‘ordinary people with the same values and concerns as they had,’ Eleanor and her family broke down barriers by inviting others to see beyond skin colour.”

• RELATED: Surrey students learn to cherish Canadian jazz trailblazer ‘more people need to know about’

In 2014, at age 95, Collins was invested with the Order of Canada for her “pioneering achievements as a jazz vocalist, and for breaking down barriers and fostering race relations in the mid-20th Century,” and in 2022 was honoured with a stamp by Canada Post.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH a video tribute and stamp reveal.

Dick died in 2011, and for years Collins lived independently in her own home in Surrey with the help and guidance of daughter Judith.

”People often asked Eleanor her secret to longevity, and for sure it was not genetics, as no one in her family lived beyond their 50s,” a bio says. “But she subscribed to a protocol of diet and exercise which held her in good stead all her life. In more recent times she was well into the importance of a healthy gut microbiome and became a great enthusiast of her liquid Bio-K Probiotics.”

A private family service will be held for Collins. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to two of her favourite charities, B.C. Black History and Awareness Society and the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) Vancouver.

CLICK HERE to read more about Collins on