World-renowned B.C. businesswoman, the brilliant Wendy McDonald, died Dec. 30 at the age of 90.
A trailblazer almost by accident, McDonald accomplished many firsts for businesswomen in her amazing lifetime.
McDonald, a resident of North Vancouver, had longtime ties to the Sunshine Coast with a home in Halfmoon Bay she visited several times a year.
McDonald was married and widowed three times. Her first marriage to Robert MacPherson, the founder of B.C. Bearing Engineers Limited, introduced her to the business world when her husband went to fight in the Second World War. When he returned, she went back to being a full-time wife and mother.
In 1950, MacPherson was killed in a private plane crash, and once again McDonald was thrust into the business world.
In a 2008 interview with Coast Reporter, McDonald said she didn’t know how she made it through the first year after his death. Her fourth child and second son, Scott, was only six weeks old when the accident happened.
A second husband, Bill Dix, drowned off the Coast near Halfmoon Bay in 1957. A widower prior to marrying McDonald, Dix brought two stepchildren, and one son born to the marriage increased McDonald’s family to seven.
One of her biggest threats came about in the 1950s when a manager she hired got illusions of grandeur. McDonald came back from a tour with European suppliers to find her desk “completely cleaned off.”
“That was my biggest challenge. He took everything; I had to start from scratch,” she recalled in the interview.
In the 1960s she married Syd McDonald who brought three more children to the brood. Syd died in 1969.
Throughout her life, family was supremely important to McDonald. She put great store in her relationship with all of them and prided herself on still shopping for her grandchildren’s Christmas presents in 2007.
McDonald had no airs for someone who accomplished so much in her lifetime. The home on the Coast was purchased from an inheritance from her grandmother.
“I got a Pan-Abode home and barged everything up. There was no electricity,” she recalled in the interview.
The initial property is now a compound important to her extended family. Her grandson, Joel O’Reilly, a local realtor, remembers his grandmother as a gracious, loving woman who took great pains with everyone.
“She had a genuine love of life, she was so good with people. This place [the Coast] was where she was able to come and relax. Coming here with her is what drew me to the Coast 10 years ago,” O’Reilly said.
The woman staff referred to affectionately as Mrs. Mac was a pioneer for businesswomen throughout her long life.
She was the first female chair of the Vancouver Board of Trade in 1990. In 1997 she was named to the Order of Canada. She was a Canadian Businesswoman of the Year, YWCA’s Woman of Distinction and received almost any other businesswoman award available nationally and internationally including Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement award. In late 2007 she was inducted into the B.C. Hall of Fame as a business laureate.
McDonald served on many charitable boards including the Sunshine Coast Botanical Gardens Society. She acted as co-chair along with Blane Hagedorn for the inaugural Grow the Garden Gala.
A funeral service was held last Thursday, Jan. 10, in North Vancouver. The family requests donations to the CHILD (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders) Foundation in McDonald’s memory.