Possessions of environmental pioneers up for auction in Comox

These items, from the estate of environmental pioneers Marie Nonnast Bohlen and Jim Bohlen, will be auctioned Feb. 4 in Comox. - Photo submitted
These items, from the estate of environmental pioneers Marie Nonnast Bohlen and Jim Bohlen, will be auctioned Feb. 4 in Comox.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Marie Nonnast Bohlen and Jim Bohlen were founding members of Greenpeace, the Sierra Club of BC and involved with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

You can now own a piece of history from their estate.

"It's quite a significant estate," explained Jean Rowe, proprietor and auctioneer of Auction House Vancouver Island in Comox who is holding an auction of their estate Feb. 4. "Both her and Jim were very active in the community and there are some very interesting pieces."

Born in Pennsylvania July 4, 1924, Marie was a founding matriarch of Greenpeace, along with being a consummate artist known for her nature illustrations.

She passed away Jan. 5 at age 89 at her home in Courtenay, predeceased by Jim, 84, who died in July 2010.

Marie became a well-known illustrator of children's and nature books, and North American Birds was first published in 1963 by Women's Day Magazine.

The book includes 300 full-colour paintings and earned acclaim from art critics.

According to her obituary, Marie's dedication to social activism and pacifism resonated with Jim when the two met in 1957.

Loys Maingon, president of the Comox Valley Naturalists Society, knew Jim from his days as an engineering student at UBC, when Jim was an engineering professor.

"It was when Greenpeace was first taking off," he explained. "He was interested very much in alternative thinking … and involved with activism and interested in philosophical ideas."

Today, the international organization has more than three million members and carries out environmental campaigns through its offices in 40 countries.

Maingon said the couple lived on Denman Island in a geodesic dome house that was completely self-sufficient, "long before it was it was a byword."

"Both were heartbroken to leave Denman (and move to Courtenay), but it was because of age."

"He would be very disparaging of things like the oil tankers and the Enbridge … it could be a better world if we just listened to people like Jim."

Rowe said during the years, she acquired some of Marie's drawings, and when the family approached her about her services for the estate, she told Marie's stepdaughter and stepson about the drawings, and was able to return them to her family.

"I get shivers just talking about them. Marie would be so happy that they went back home."

In addition to a 1950s grandfather clock, antique oak Scandinavian chairs and other furniture up for auction, Rowe said Marie was a collector of historical items from Cumberland's Chinatown.

The auction is scheduled for 6 p.m. at 1611 Hudson Rd. in Comox. For more information, visit


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