In Memoriam | Peggy Louise Olive

Peggy Louise Olive died on December 10th in Victoria, B.C., after being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Born in Montreal in 1948, Peggy became a radiation biologist after fretting during her teen years about the Cold War and what she saw as inevitable nuclear annihilation. Her training instead led to a career of trying to improve the ability of radiation to treat cancer.

She met her husband, Ralph Durand, at graduate school and they worked together in the U.S.A. and Canada for over forty years. A teacher and mentor to many talented scientists, she was a perpetual student herself. She received several awards for her research and was elected President of the International Association for Radiation Research.

Once retired from the BC Cancer Agency she volunteered with the Suzuki Elders, having come to believe that she needn’t have worried about people being annihilated by hydrogen bombs or cancer because they had already exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet and were well on their way to depleting every critical resource, thus ensuring their own demise.

Recently, she lived for five years on magical Salt Spring Island where she volunteered, gardened, and self-published two novels, one of which was short-listed for the 2015 Cedric Literary Awards. She is survived by her loving, patient and supportive husband Ralph Durand, by her older sister Carolyn Olive and younger brother Ken Olive who herded her through childhood and sustained and amused her throughout her life, and two beautiful and wise nieces Erin and Kelly Hanna.

Many of us Suzuki Elders got to know Peggy well over the years. She was a tireless worker in the cause, contributing to Suzuki Elder Council deliberations, writing recollections and articles for our blog, serving on our education working group, and developing and managing our website.

It is particularly cruel that she has been taken from us by the very disease that she worked so long and so well to understand scientifically so that others might have a better chance of surviving. It took her life far too early.



  1. I am indeed sad to hear of Peggy’s death. We will miss her happy and ever present smile, and her ability to be focused on difficult issues. Blessings to her family.

  2. For those of you who knew Peggy well, your grief must be huge. Our hearts are with all of you and her family.
    We spoke only a few times, but her knowledge and compassion, especially around health and cancer were deeply appreciated.
    I (Rob) grew up in the States and admire her warrior-spirit to fight what we all feared. This warrior-spirit resides in all of us Elders, no matter our walk.
    Prayers for all…

  3. Here is another website address with Peggy Louise Olive’s obituary, with some more information on it:
    I am very sad to hear of Peggy’s death, although she did warn us all that she had an incurable form of an aggressive cancer and she needed to spend time preparing for the end of her life. She was, as described in the SE obituary blog, a courageous person and brought her IT skills and energy to set up and maintain many useful communication tools for SE and then wisely delegate those responsibilities to others so the organisation can carry on. May she rest in Peace.

  4. I learned how scientists think from a conversation with Peg some years ago. The story is this. I, not a scientist but what one might call a bleeding heart liberal with a tendency to judgement if folks don’t ‘see the light’ that I see (I am working on that – a lifelong project), was sometimes surprised how Peggy would change her mind on what I might have thought was an environmental matter set in stone. “How can you just do that – change your point of view, or even be open to changing it?” I once said to her. “I’m a scientist” she said. “I listen to the facts and the tested science, and I believe it until new testing showing different facts comes along, then I have to move forward with that. If that looks like changing my mind, well, so be it.” We talked about the role of the ‘heart’ in this – how our psyche – ego – soul can want to think mostly one way, even in the face of scientific ‘proof’. And while she allowed for that, she would still, of course, maintain scientific discipline. From then on, when I would hear Peggy say something that seemed surprising to me, like “Hmm – I wonder how that (new idea) would work?”, or “there ARE other things we should be looking at here,” I learned not to chafe, but to say to myself “hmm – if Peggy is wondering, then I’d better get off my high horse and give this another think.” I will miss Peggy’s equanimity, her patience, her commitment to taking on the work, and her amazing lemon squares. And I will remain inspired by what I learned from her, and with her. Thanks Peg.

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