'Peggy Ann Smith Lane' to bring grandmother's memory to neighbourhood where she was shot to death
Nearly eight months after a grandmother known to so many in Toronto's south Riverdale neighbourhood as "Nanny Peggy" was taken from the community, a permanent fixture is set to go up in the laneway where she was shot to death.
Last August, Peggy Ann Smith, 61, was killed near Broadview Avenue and Dundas Street West in what police believe was a targeted shooting — only the grandmother of 13 wasn't the intended victim.
To date, no arrests have been made in her death.
"Peggy Ann Smith Lane" will be a reminder of the grandmother's presence, said Ward 30 Coun. Paula Fletcher, who put forward the recommendation.
"She had 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, but she also had the community's children and she'd hug and kiss them too," Smith's daughter Lori Smith told CBC Toronto.
"She was either someone's mom or someone's grandmother in the community."
On Tuesday, the Toronto and East York Community Council approved a motion to rename the laneway between Munro Street and Hamilton Street where Smith was shot while outside with her grandchildren.
More than 200 residents signed a petition in support of the tribute to the grandmother.
'She always had a smile'
As a child, Smith used to run up and down the laneway near her family's home on Hamilton Street, Smith's grandson Jerome Smith said.
"She would have never have thought this laneway would be named after her and that it will literally live on for years and years to come.
"People who live here in the future will question why it was named that and they'll hear the great stories of what a great woman she was and the sad story of what happened in August."
Fletcher said the Smith also put her community first.
"Peggy was one of the good folks," the councillor said. "She always had a smile, an encouraging word for all the kids. Her grandkids just loved her so much."
That warmth is something Fletcher, who represents Toronto-Danforth, hopes will permeate the revitalized Toronto Community Housing neighbourhood — formerly Don Mount Court but now called Rivertowne — that has, in less than a year, been marred by two separate homicides and a spate of gun violence.
On May 5, 2016, a home just a few minutes away from where Smith was shot was hit by bullets. On April 20, shots were fired at another home nearby. And just three months after Smith was gunned down outside her family's home came a second homicide.
Marcus Gibson, a man in his 20s, was the victim.
"Peggy's generous spirit, like her caring and compassionate ways, extended well beyond her family into the larger community. Peggy's faith was always front and centre in her life and it fuelled her tremendous loyalty to her family, her neighbours and her many friends.
"Her daily visits, her hugs, and her prayers are missed by the Don Mount/Rivertowne community," said the letter to the community council last November.
'Be good to one another in Rivertowne'
The laneway's renaming falls under the city's Street Naming Policy, which states that an individual must have made significant contributions to the city in order to be considered for a street in their memory.
Among those who knew her, Smith's contributions are without dispute.
"She'd always read her bible and pray for everyone good or bad," Savannah Smith said of her grandmother after her death, describing the 61-year-old as a loving woman who went to church every Tuesday and Sunday.
With the laneway named in her honour, Fletcher says Smith's caring nature will live on, even in death.
"She'll still be doing good," Fletcher said.
Since her death, Fletcher says she's seen better collaboration between Toronto police and Toronto Community Housing to tackle the violence that's gripped the neighbourhood.
"I don't believe that was happening before, I believe that it's starting to happen now ... And it took Peggy's death to really bring that to the forefront." Smith was Toronto's 48th homicide victim of 2016.
The message Fletcher hopes the laneway will send to the community: "Be good to one another in Rivertowne."