“Peter Below”

The Foundation’s first Executive Director

Born at Schreiber, Ont. in 1887, Peter Lowe came to Winnipeg at the age of three. His long association with the Alloway and Champion Bank began when he became a teller in their North End Branch. This bank, located on Main close to the CPR station and the Immigration Hall, was used by many newly arrived emigrants to change money and set up their first bank account in Canada. Lowe became acquainted with several Slavic languages and handled the currency of many different countries.

By 1912, at the age of 25, he was the Bank Secretary of the then-largest private bank in the country. In 1917 he was made General Manager, a post he held until 1930, when the Bank was finally taken over by the Bank of Commerce.

He was then appointed to manage The Winnipeg Foundation, a job he had been doing on a voluntary basis since 1921. When he was appointed, the Chair of The Foundation Board said, “His intimate relationship with the late Mr. Alloway and his knowledge of the wishes of Winnipeg’s great benefactor with relation to the distribution of charities make Mr. Lowe an invaluable assistant and advisor.”

Lowe was a child of his times. He described the process of acquiring Métis land scrip in a matter of fact way, never hinting that he may have doubted the morality of doing business in this way. He used language and displayed attitudes that would not be acceptable today. But these things do not detract from the enormous contribution Lowe made during his long tenure as Executive Director of The Winnipeg Foundation, from which he retired in 1957.

Lowe signed himself “Peter B. Lowe” although he had no middle name. This was because of a joke that circulated about him. The story went that a Winnipegger arrived at the Pearly Gates and was asked by St. Peter what he had done during his life for the Community Chest, the Salvation Army, the Children’s Aid Society, and lastly, he was asked what he had done for the Peter below, meaning the Peter at The Winnipeg Foundation.

Peter Lowe died at Winnipeg, having made prolonged and substantial contributions to the growth and development of his home city, on Jan. 1, 1980.

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