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.