When we heard that Wendy McDonald had passed away on December 30 at the age of 90, we were saddened by the news. But affectionate memories of Wendy quickly followed. McDonald, the former CEO of BC Bearing Engineers Ltd., was someone who charmed, inspired and impressed everyone she met — including our team, who had the pleasure of working on Wendy’s biography, You Got That Right! John remarked, “She was an amazing person. Absolutely filled with life energy.” That energy was infectious and endless. McDonald’s lifelong friend Grace McCarthy told the Vancouver Sun that the BC Bearing spark plug danced all night at her 90th birthday, six months ago.
McDonald was born in North Vancouver in 1922 (née Stoker), and married Robert McPherson in 1942. She took over McPherson’s single machine shop when he went to serve in the second world war. Pregnant and caring for two young children, McDonald found her calling in business. Her natural knack for building personal relationships was the secret to her success: She had a tremendous personality and she knew the names of every child of everyone she did business with,” says McCarthy. Former company president Dermot Strong once remarked, “None of us will ever be able to replace Mrs. Mac or mimic her way of relating to people so naturally.”
Wendy was a pioneer. She excelled at running a business at a time when married women were just breaking into the workforce. Under Wendy’s leadership, BC Bearings grew into a formidable international business with 60 locations worldwide. She also grew and mentored her family of 10 children and 28 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren. Throughout her career, McDonald stayed in touch with the day-to-day operations of her company, getting to know all her employees at every opportunity. She was also engaged in her community: McDonald served on countless corporate boards and became the first female chair of the 103-year-old Vancouver Board of Trade in 1990. For her contributions to the community and country, she was recognized with numerous awards, including the Order of Canada in 1997.
“She had guts. She knew what she had to do. And she … was not afraid to ask for advice. Courage, confidence and humility — boy, what a combination!” said friend Bill Wellwood, in You Got That Right. In an email to our team, Echo president Samantha wrote, “What a woman. I’m so proud we helped capture her remarkable story.” Documenting Wendy’s legacy was an honour.
Our thoughts are with Wendy’s wide network of family, friends and colleagues — and with Wendy, whose life well-lived was a gift to those around her.