Lee, Peggy

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Lee, Peggy

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Peggy Lee (nee Wong) was born in 1923 in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. She was one of fourteen children of Chew and Lee Sze Wong. The family moved from Guangdong to Canada and Chew Wong was initially a railway worker before opening a grocery store in Prince George.

At fifteen, Lee moved to Vancouver to attend the Moler Hairdressing School. Two years later in 1941, she opened the Paris Beauty Salon in the Holden Building on East Hastings Street. This would be the first of a number of salons that Lee would own and operate.

In 1942, Lee joined the St. John’s Women’s Ambulance Corps, with whom she served until the end of World War II. Her platoon was comprised completely of Chinese Canadian women, of whom Lee was the youngest. Activities that Lee engaged in as part of her service included acting as a stretcher-bearer and assisting with planned precautionary blackouts of all city lights in Vancouver.

In 1951, Lee married William Henry Rees Lee. The couple raised four children, including a set of triplets.

In the 1960s, Lee went into a partnership with a couple with whom she co-owned the Prince Eugene Salon, which eventually relocated to the Hotel Vancouver. Following her partners’ departure from the area, Lee retained the location and opened the Peggy Lee Beauty Centre, which operated between 1972 and 1985. As part of her career, Lee was highly involved in the hairdressing community both locally and internationally. She served as an examiner and judge at various conventions and beauty pageants in the 70s and 80s and was a board member and Inspector for the Hairdressers Association of British Columbia (later the Cosmetologists' Association of British Columbia) in the 1990s. Lee officially retired in 2011.
Lee has been an avid investor in a variety of ventures throughout her life. Projects have included inventions such as a hovercraft boat and a glass-washing device, a hotel in Toronto and a nighclub in Las Vegas, a film, and several beauty product lines.

Lee has been an active member of the Chinese Canadian and veterans’ communities in Vancouver, in particular through involvement with the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society. She also was a founding member of the Vancouver Chinese Canadian Activity Centre (VCCAC). Lee also acted as a long-time board member for the VCCAC offshoot, the Chishaun Housing Society, which for many years operated the subsidized senior living facility Oakridge House in partnership with Shaughnessy Heights United Church. For her service to these communities, Lee has been the recipient of multiple awards and nominated for a British Columbia multicultural award in 2015.

In addition to community work, Lee was also actively involved in politics and served as a delegate for the Social Credit Party. She held a close relationship with Grace McCarthy and communicated with other. politicians including William Bennett and William Van Der Zalm and Brian Mulroney.

Peggy Lee passed away in Vancouver, April 13, 2023 at the age of 99.


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Vancouver Chinese Canadian Activity Centre Society

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Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society

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Chishaun Society

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