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The Gordon S. Shipp Memorial Award, which is presented annually to Mississauga’s Citizen of the Year, has been presented annually since 1980, and to date there have been 45 recipients.

Our very first citizen of the year to be honoured (the 1979 award was presented on April 29, 1980) was Margaret Leslie (1916-1994). Margaret Joy Hand was born in Toronto to Joseph and Margaret Hand. Her father, Joseph Hand, enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War in 1915, meaning he was likely absent for Margaret’s birth. Joseph was seriously injured by a gunshot wound to the head on October 31, 1916. He returned to Canada in the spring of 1917 and was placed in a military hospital in Whitby and was discharged from hospital care on May 29, 1918 with permanent injuries, including weakness to his left leg and injuries to eye and ear. One wonders if the injuries to her father may have inspired Margaret’s future endeavours.On December 29, 1934, Margaret married Arthur Ritchie Leslie, who was a photographer by profession. Margaret and Arthur raised two daughters. Margaret also became a registered nurse and in 1946 she began volunteering with the Red Cross, providing assistance and caring for wounded soldiers following the Second World War. Together with her family, Margaret moved to historic Mississauga in the early 1950s, and with her husband began organizing blood donor clinics and a Meals on Wheels service. Through the Red Cross, Margaret was an active volunteer in our community. She was involved in providing community support during Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the Malton gas explosion in 1969, and the Texaco Refinery Fire in 1978. She served with Red Cross Welfare Division, and later became President of the Region of Peel Branch of the Canadian Red Cross. She supervised all aspects of the organization’s services, including countless blood donor clinics, homemaker services, youth services, emergency services, water safety training, and more, assisting innumerable residents after fires and other accidents.

Margaret Leslie, Mississauga’s first Citizen of the Year, passed away on May 26, 1994. Her contributions to helping shape the City of Mississauga forever honoured with her portrait in the Mississauga Civic Centre’s Gordon S. Shipp Memorial Award wall of honour and by the Red Cross’ Margaret Leslie Award, presented to student volunteers.I wish everyone a very happy International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8 as we pause, reflect, and pay respects to all the significant women who, like Margaret Leslie, helped to positively impact our world.Special thanks to the Museums of Mississauga and to the Mississauga Library System for assisting with this article.

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