Banker, wonderful aunt, undiscovered artist. Born in Montreal on June 25, 1951; died on Oct. 20, 2013, in Vancouver, of cancer, aged 62.
Peggy Anderson was a child of the ’50s, growing up on a street in the West Island of Montreal where all the houses were newly built. Her mother bought her smocked dresses and made clothes for her dolls. Peggy preferred to wear overalls and run around outside with her three brothers. Her big doll pram was quickly turned into a stage coach and then a target for hockey pucks.
When she graduated from high school at 17, she received a scholarship to the prestigious Miss Graham’s Business School in Westmount. There she learned typing and shorthand, and how to look the part of a professional secretary (skirts an exact length below the knee, legs crossed when taking dictation). She won a prize for her typing skills.
Peggy was soon working in the banking sector, as a teller for a small trust company in Old Montreal. At that time, tellers served customers from behind a narrow, open counter and the cash was kept in drawers at their fingertips. Transactions were reconciled with an adding machine. Some customers insisted on waiting in Peggy’s line because they wanted her beautiful handwriting to be the only entries in their bank book.
There were robberies, too, and she recounted that the most upsetting thing was not the masked men who were gone in minutes but the smell of fear that lingered.
Peggy was sent to Toronto and then to Vancouver to open new branches for the trust company, and later for the bank that took it over. She was the go-to person when a car smashed a downtown branch window at 3 a.m., and had to sit with a gold bullion display until the 24-hour glass service made urgent repairs.
Her banking career, which spanned more than 40 years, saw enormous changes with the introduction of computers, automated tellers, Internet banking and, finally, a place for female bankers in senior executive ranks.
Peggy’s skills were recognized with a new position created for her: junior vice-president. Later, she was pushed out of her job as a result of a merger. She attended outplacement classes and financial courses with the same perseverance that she brought to her work and quickly became a certified investment councillor with a major bank. Although the working atmosphere became more competitive with increasing pressures, Peggy maintained her old-school values.
She loved her work in banking, especially as a branch manager, putting in many long hours. Customer service and her staff came first. Her clients valued her careful attention to their needs, her savvy calm (she experienced many bear and bull cycles), and her integrity.
Peggy found balance in her life by creating a beautiful home, decorated with an artist’s eye, getting together with friends for a regular bridge night and monthly book club, taking as many art classes as she could fit in, and travelling. She laughed easily and had a lovely sense of humour – for many years, she had a miniature sand box, complete with toy bulldozers, in her office as a reminder to keep things in perspective.
With Peggy’s passing, her family and friends lost an artistic, fun-loving companion. The banking world lost a pioneer.
Vicki Schmolka is Peggy’s sister-in-law.