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HowdYYC: Meet Susan McLeod

by Calgary Downtown Association


Inspired by Humans of New York, #HeartBeatsYYC is a new initiative to share real stories from the heart of our city. Our Downtown looks a little different than we're used to, and while some doors are temporarily closed, the hearts within still beat.

(Author's note: HeartsBeatsYYC is now HowdYYC!) 

Susan McLeod has dedicated her career to the service of the Downtown community since she donned a red nose to play Rudolph in one of the very first Calgary Santa Claus Parades back in the '80s. She's since volunteered for many years with the SORCe and is a friend to all here in the heart of Calgary. Susan has  traded in her red nose for a red Downtown Ambassador vest, and continues to welcome people from all walks of life whether they are a visitor or a resident of our city.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

That would be my best friend Maggie, we have known each other since we were babies. She is really one of the smartest people I know, she has helped me through the years. She’s got so much wisdom and she has helped me become the woman I am today.

What is the most influential part of Maggie on you?

She has helped me through many difficult challenges in my life, as well as shared a lot of happy moments, and has been there through everything and I just feel so blessed to have somebody like her that I can I can bounce things off of.

If you could say one thing to everyone in Calgary right now, what would you say?

I think that is a really easy thing. Just be kind to one another. Everybody has a story and we just need to be kind.

What are you most afraid of right now?

I think getting COVID. Getting it and passing it along to my mother. My mom is 85 and is the one who keeps our whole family together and we need her desperately. Everyday I worry about… "did I contract the virus somewhere along the way?" I think a lot of people feel like that but so far so good.

What inspires you?

When I ended up working at SORCe, I just find the people to be absolutely amazing at what they do everyday working with the homeless and vulnerable sector. You just can’t help but be inspired when you see some of the things that they’re able to do to help people. It keeps me to keep going and even though I’ve been retired for a year now, I can’t stop going. I see what they do there and it makes me want to keep helping people so I’m just so fortunate that they’ve kept me there and haven’t disabled my swipe card and I will just keep going.

What's the happiest you've ever been?

That is definitely two days. Both days when my children were born. Truly a blessing in my life and I don’t recall every being happier than the birth of each of my children.

What are their names? And what do they do?

Keith is a fireman and I think everybody knows that. I constantly brag about my kids and my daughter, Courtney, just graduated from Mount Royal in business administration.

Your son is a hometown hero right?

I do believe he is. He was on a show called Hellfire Heroes and I was pretty proud of him. He built his own house on an acreage he purchased with his wife and married the love of his life so as mom you can’t ask for much more. He definitely is my hero.

Do you have any good stories about him?

I can’t think of anything off the cusp. He took me fishing for the first time this summer and I really enjoyed that. I’m out in the water, caught the fish, reeled it in, and then I’m looking at the poor little fish dangling at the end of the line, and I said “Keith, take him off, let him go, put him back in the water.” And he was like “well where do you get your fish from that you eat?” Well “I don’t catch them,” right, so we had to put the poor guy back in the water. So much for my first fishing trip

What makes you laugh the most?

That would be when I get to babysit my great niece and nephew, they are just priceless with the stuff that comes out of their little mouths. Just having them in my life, their innocence and their pure joy of life, it just makes me so happy. 

Do they have any "kids say the darndest things" moments?

Well, my little one Knox, he’s 7 and he drew a picture for the contest with Stephen Avenue, and he was asking me the other day “Did I win, Did I win?” I took him and showed him where they hung the pictures, and I said "yours says honourable mention so it was very close to winning," and he was so excited to see his drawing and an honourable mention. It just makes you so happy when you see these little kids.

What's your favourite thing to see out of your window?

The view of the mountains out of my condo window. I grew up in Banff, so when I look out my window in the morning, I see those mountains and it takes me back to my childhood and the wonderful memories from when I was a little kid in Banff. just seeing the mountains close in Calgary  makes me happy.

What are three things you think of the most each day?

The three things I really want everyday are that my family and friends stay healthy and safe and happy. And my coworkers at SORCe and now every one of the Ambassadors, I want everyone to stay safe and healthy everyday.  The third thing is that I really want to make a difference to somebody. That’s what I say at night, that I just want to be able to help somebody, somehow, and if everybody does that, this would be such a better place.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

I believe it's half full and I am just really fortunate with my life. I know I’m in retirement but I honestly have never worked harder and sometimes I feel like I am working 6 days a week, I just feel like I have so much more to give. I am not giving back my swipe card to SORCe and I am not hanging up my ambassador jacket any time soon. I truly love what I do, and you know, I think I am very lucky that I had almost 40 years with the City and I love my job. I don’t know how many people that can say that…that they love what they do. So I was truly blessed to have that kind of job and now I am continuing doing exactly what I love to do in my retirement. I’m a very lucky woman.

Do you have a Calgary story that you would like to share?

You know, I have so many but one that I honestly don’t think I’d ever forget was working for the city, we had a young boy come into the office to borrow some change. I said well “what do you need the money for,” He said my mom is outside at the pay phone and so I went out and I looked and she seemed like she was really rattled. I just looked at her and I said “Can you come in,” she came in and had two little kids with her, she came into the office and she said, I am trying to escape to a women’s shelter, I just need to call them and then be on my way. I said ok and she goes my husband is outside and he thinks I’m coming in to pay my utility bill. And she said that I need to, I just need to get away from him. So I quickly got our security team, we got her down the back door, we called her a taxi, they climbed into the taxi, as they’re driving away, the little boy looked up and waved at me and we were just standing there and were like, what the heck just happened because it happened so quickly. She ended up calling me about 6 months later cause we’ve given her a card and she just said, “I want to thank you and your office for what you did, you got me out alive.” It honestly just showed that a little action and acting quick on your feet, it all came together with the help of  my coworkers, security, and yup, anyway, that is one of my favourite memories of working out of the City.

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