Lucille Johnstone was born in 1924 in Vancouver. “Her grandparents advised her parents against sending her to high school, but she went anyway, working after school to pay for her books and clothes.”1
“I went to a high school that was oriented to business subjects. So I was hooked early by accountancy and, I guess, that changed my life.”
She began her 45-year working career with RivTow in 1945 as a girl Friday. She would eventually serve as its president, director, shareholder and chief operating officer. During her tenure she was always a team player and an inspiration to those who worked with her. “She did anything that needed doing from typing, photocopying, or picking up dinner on her credit card if people were working late.” It was her role as tug dispatcher that earned her the moniker of “Tugboat Annie.”
While she was still in her twenties she enrolled in the first class for certified general accountants offered by the University of British Columbia. She worked days and attended classes at night. It took six years, but she graduated as a certified general accountant, one of only two women to complete the program. Later she completed a six-week course at the Banff School of Advanced Management. The program helped prepare her for the merger of RivTow and Marine Strait Towing in 1970, a merger that doubled the size of the company and led to her being named financial vice-president.During her financial stewardship, the company successfully diversified, which helped it survive the 1980s British Columbia recession. By the time Lucille retired in 1989, RivTow was one of the largest marine companies in the province, with 1500 employees.
During retirement she devoted her talents to the community through charitable organizations such as the Kwantlen College Fund, Sexual Abuse Recovery Anonymous and the Pacific Advisory Regional Council of Fisheries and Oceans. Lucille was a recipient of the Vancouver YWCA Woman of the year Award in 1984, an honourary doctorate from University of British Columbia and the Order of British Columbia. In 2003 she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. Lucille died in 2004.
Thanks to Betty Martel and Lisa Da Silva for their input and assistance.
British Columbia. Protocol and Events Branch. Order of British Columbia website.
Martin, Sandra. “Lucille Johnstone, tug and barge operator, 1924-2004.” Obituaries. The Globe and Mail, 7 February 2005, S6.
1. All quotations from Martin.