Not the least bit surprising to anyone who’s ever met her, the irrepressible force of a woman known as Peggy Brown has achieved centenarian status.
Peggy will be 100 years old tomorrow, Dec. 18.
Peggy has lived an extraordinary life: as a nurturing and kind-hearted matriarch who looked for every opportunity to take in friends and strangers alike and make them part of the family; as a fiercely independent and unapologetic pioneer in a generation that had to face unthinkable tragedies and wars, as well as overcome mountainous obstacles on the road to gender equality; and as a determined, passionate, fun-loving soul who revelled in the company of others and their happiness.
This weekend, family and friends will honour and celebrate Peggy with a small but mighty gathering. They will share memories, pour over old photographs, sing songs from way back when, and drink Peggy’s favourite cocktail – pink ladies – as they reflect on her remarkable journey and her indelible impact on all of them and all who know her.
With luck, they will be able to entice Peggy to sing along, pick up the guitar or give them one of her famous yodels.
Peggy, born to Edna (Nenna) and Jack McArthur, hails from Gleason, Alberta, a town so small you might miss it as you drive through it (population 300), and she is the youngest and only surviving member of four siblings (Ralph, Eileen and Jean). Her early years were spent on the farm, doing chores and attending the small Hammerhill school in Wheatland County; her true passion in youth was riding her beloved horse, Muffet.
Despite the shortages as the family struggled through the Great Depression, they ensured there was always food on the table; and always with enough to be shared with whoever was around. It is this same spirit of generosity and compassion that Peggy has carried with her all her life.
In a tragic turn of events, the bank took the farm, but the family did not accept government offerings and incentives to stay; Peggy innately knew that she and her siblings were destined for something greater. She convinced her brother and sisters to hop on the rail line and, as she said it, “go where the action is” – by which she meant “Old Vancouver Town.”
Arriving with little else but the clothes on their backs and a few possessions, the family determination won through; they got an apartment in Vancouver’s West End; Peggy’s sisters immediately got jobs at the prestigious Woodwards and her brother Ralph landed a job which became a life-long career in the logging industry on the coast of BC.
Vancouver days entailed work, friends, soldiers, dances and yet more work.
With the outbreak of the war, the men went abroad and the women went into the factories. Peggy got her welding ticket and began work in the shipyards. More adventures, more stories, more good times and more lifelong friendships were forged – as well as a chance meeting with Jim Brown.
In a love story that seems to fit Peggy’s determined nature, Jim was at the YMCA dance that night to meet another woman, but ended up leaving with Peggy. Jim had to earn it, though, having to pass Peggy’s three stringent requirements:
1. He had to want to live in BC;
2. He had to drink beer; and
3. He had to be a good dancer.
They both picked well that night, and Jim proved a great match for Peggy in all ways; the best husband, uncle, father and grandfather and friend that anyone could ever ask for.
Enjoying a happy marriage and rich family life together, Jim and the kids loved hockey, camping, fishing, curling, lacrosse; none of which was of particularly interest to Peggy, but she embraced it all and got involved as a loving mother and eternal supporter of whatever interests or activities her husband, kids and grandchildren wanted to explore.
Following in the footsteps of her daughter, Leslie, who moved to Mission in 1976, Peggy arrived in Mission in 1983, and was soon heavily involved in the community as a member and consistent contributor to the Mission Legion; as an avid supporter of the Fraser Valley Humane Society and Saints Rescue; as a prominent voice and activist for local political parties; as a long-time volunteer for Mission’s Citizens on Patrol; as a regular member of the curling club; and as a Terry Fox run participant (Peggy has never once missed a Terry Fox run).
Music, food, get-togethers, stories, memories and adventures have defined Peggy’s life! Sing-alongs with Peggy at the lead with her guitar have given the entire family a love of music and parties.
And this weekend, on Peggy’s 100th birthday, they’ll be embracing that spirit with Peggy and with fervour!