Peggy Gwen Lee (nee Wong)

April 13, 2023

Peggy Lee (nee Wong) Obituary

It is with great sadness that Peggy passed away at the age of 99 years old in Vancouver, BC, on April 13, 2023. Peggy was best known for her quick-witted humor, strong work ethic, generous and compassionate spirit. She was also a humanitarian, fiercely independent, an amazing gardener and awesome cook, with an entrepreneurial bent at chasing the “next big thing”. She never complained, had a smile for all who she met and a helping hand for those in need.

Born in Prince Rupert, BC, she was one of 14 children and the sole survivor of her siblings since 2017. She moved to Vancouver to attend the Molar Hairdressing School and opened her first salon at the tender age of 17. With a strong work drive and a curiosity about everything, she owned and operated a chain of salons that included The Peggy Lee Beauty Centre at the former Hotel Vancouver (operating at that location for almost 20 years), was involved in several other business ventures and started her lifelong contribution to community service.  

Peggy had a special empathy for children with disabilities and those less fortunate. She was a founder or co-founder and sat on many Boards, volunteered and initiated or contributed to a variety of charities/organizations. Some of these included the Children’s Variety Club, The Child Foundation, Covenant House, Operation Smiles Canada, Canadian Red Cross, Chishaun Housing Society (for seniors and a daycare center at Oakridge), African Pikin Foundation (for Sierra Leone children’s education),Vancouver Chinese Canadian Activity Centre Society, and the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society (CCMMS). Peggy was also involved in supporting Afghan orphans from 2010 to 2018, donated to Outside the Wire, and Burkas2Bullets, celebrating Canadian Service in Afghanistan.

During WWII, Peggy joined the St. John Ambulance Women’s Corp - Vancouver Unit, as the youngest member at 19 years old of the only all Chinese Women Platoon in Canada. Having travelled extensively to many parts of the world during her life, her last overseas trip was in 2014 to China at the age of 91 as a WWII veteran and CCMMS participant who was invited to Beijing to tour the country.

Always humble and never seeking the spotlight, her tireless efforts were nevertheless acknowledged in books and films and she received many awards and honoursthroughout her life. Some of these included BC’s Medal of Good Citizenship, The Variety Telethon fundraising trophy for Canuck Place, St John Medallion recognizing Dedicated Service November 2020, and Award from Professional Aesthetics and Hairdressers’ Society of Canada. The University of BC Special Collections Archives Library requested and now holds her life documents, awards, photos and writings.

She met her husband William Henry Rees Lee (known in Canada as “Rees”- since deceased) in Vancouver, BC and they had a son Colin and then triplets Catherine, Deborahand Barbara. She is survived by Colin, Catherine,Deborah, Barbara, granddaughter Maya, many nieces and nephews, and friends from around the world. Heartfelt gratitude goes to Jack & Trudy Titerle, Alison MacLean, Peter Granger, Lilian Hudson, Cindy & George Febiger, Richard N. Liu, Margaret & Martha Shui, Cynthia Reynolds and Shannon Wong whose calls or visits continued in Peggy’s latter years.

She will be very much missed by us all.

A special Thank You also goes to the staff at Broadway Lodge in Vancouver, BC who took amazing care of Peggy during her residency there since 2017. Especially during COVID, their team of nurses, doctors, care aides, recreational staff, dietician, administrational staff, etc. were diligent and devoted in ensuring Peggy and her fellow residents were kept healthy and safe.

A memorial service for Peggy will be held at a later date.  
In lieu of flowers, donations can be given to the Children’s Variety Club, Covenant House, Operation Smiles Canada or the Canadian Red Cross, as these meant a lot to her.

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