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For decades, secrecy laws prevented Peggy Gray from telling even her husband the details of her wartime role with the code breakers at Bletchley Park.

Only long after the Second World War could they hear the full story of her work among the best British brains of the day, the so-called Bletchley Boffins, who cracked the German Enigma code. But even then she barely discussed her wartime service, said her daughter, Wendy Cook.

Ms. Gray signed up in 1942 and became a petty officer with the Women's Royal Navy Service, in charge of several other WRENS stationed at Bletchley Park, testing the various code combinations the cryptologists came up with.

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In London for a dance during the war, she met Donald T. Gray, a Canadian serving with the Royal Air Force. They were married in 1945 and she moved to Toronto as a war bride.

Ms. Cook said her mother was an avid golfer and shopper who enjoyed playing cards with her faithful bridge circle and liked to do crosswords, the bigger the better.

"The Christmas crossword, that was a red-letter day for her," remembers Ms. Cook, the younger of the family's two children. "She was a stay-at-home mom, but was a very dedicated volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society."

Ms. Gray kept her home in North York for several years after her husband died in 1990, resisting the idea of a seniors' residence.

"Then, of her own volition, she decided to go to an assisted-care home," Ms. Cook said. "The one thing she always said was that there were too many old people there -- she preferred young people."

Ms. Gray died on May 26 after a period of decline. She was 87.


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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More


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