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Canmore, Alberta, Canada

The Remarkable Rocky Mountain Adventures of The Leightons

Peggy and David Leighton stand beside a waterfall in the Canadian Rockies. PHOTO BY BRUNO ENGLER

There are legends among us at Spring Creek. Peggy and David Leighton are residents at Origin, but that’s not the whole story. To many, they are better known as the intrepid couple who transformed the arts landscape in the Bow Valley through their work for the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity.

Originally from Ontario, the Leightons moved west when David was appointed president of what was then the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1970.

Peggy and David’s daughter Jenny, who was ten years old at the time, remembers how her parents saw the move as “another adventure for the family,” much like the years they spent in Switzerland for David’s teaching leaves.

“My parents never shied away from new adventures and opportunities,” says Jenny. “This was just another one.”

Although David held the formal position at the school, it was no secret that Peggy played a significant part in turning it into a world-class, year-round institution.

“It was pretty remarkable because they always were a team from my earliest memories,” Jenny remembers. “They had a lot of respect for each-other’s roles. My dad had been working in a university in

Western Ontario prior, so to come to a place like Banff and take on such a different position made it a natural setting for my mom to be able to really participate. It was a new chapter, a new life, an era in Banff where there were still draft dodgers living down right by Central Park in Banff and wandering the streets. It was a different place.”

For Jenny, growing up in the Bow Valley was like being in a “big, huge outdoor adventure playground,” surrounded by the talented artists, musicians, and cultural leaders Peggy and David attracted to the school.

“My mom would take important people out on a hike, and you never knew, someone might show up with little heeled shoes to go hike somewhere in the mountains,” says Jenny.

In 1982, David’s presidency ended and his and Peggy’s book, Artists, Builders, and Dreamers: Fifty Years at the Banff School, was published. They returned to Ontario, leaving their legacy to the arts in the Bow Valley to ricochet across Canada, and the world.

A return to the Rockies wasn’t in the picture until many years later when David’s slow-progressing dementia got Peggy thinking about the next chapter in their lives.

Jenny, who was living in Calgary at the time, was receiving updates on the development progress for Origin from her long-time friend and Spring Creek Real Estate Sales Manager Ross Jansen and had the opportunity to tour the facility.

After coordinating the sale of her parents’ condo in Ontario, Jenny and her siblings had them on their way back across Canada to Canmore in 2018.

While Peggy was ultimately at the helm of the decision-making process, Jenny believes the move “was the best thing for Dad because looking out and having that view of mountains every day and just being back in this environment has been really great for his mind.”

“Having nature right there at their doorstep is great,” she says. ”I recently took my mom out for a huge walk and we got to stroll by the creek and look at the flowers and the birds rather than on a busy city street where they tend to be building all of these places.”

As in those early days as close collaborators, it has remained important to the Leightons that they stay together. Origin makes it possible for Peggy and David to share a living space, despite their different health needs.

“They’re still a team believe it or not, at ninety-three years old,” says Jenny. “It’s amazing.”

Looking for a spirited seniors’ community to call home? Take a tour of Origin at Spring Creek, or visit Originspringcreek.com for more info.

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