Ninety-nine and counting

CREB’s first female board director discusses her life and her craft

Grace Turley was never one for barriers.

As a small child she would escape her family yard in order to explore the surrounding town of Ochre River, Manitoba. That sense of curiosity would lead her to the world of real estate years later when she settled with a family of her own in Calgary.

Upon seeing an ad seeking an “experienced real estate man”, Turley applied anyways — and got the job.

It was a career that would see Turley acknowledged as Calgary’s first woman of commercial real estate. Like those early days escaping the family yard, Turley broke
another barrier becoming Calgary’s first female commercial REALTOR®.

Further adding to her list of firsts, Turley became CREB®’s first female
director of the board and served in the position from 1975 to 1978.

“I started out in housing and I didn’t like it because … the women never knew what they wanted,” Turley said from her inner city home. “Then I got involved in a couple
of [commercial] deals. I thought ‘well, this is for me,’ so I took several courses and I was very successful. I sold small shopping centres, small office buildings and land…so it worked out very nicely.”

Turley, who turned 99 on May 1, still remembers her favourite deal.

“I had a customer, he wanted to buy a piece of land and develop it so I found him a whole block on Sixth Avenue between Eighth and Ninth Street and I got the whole block listed,” she said. “So I sold this to Charlie Smith, he was a very nice man and we got along fine and we saw eye to eye on what he liked.”

In her 2011 book, Ninety-Six and Counting, Turley writes of other big deals including the land the Mayland Heights Shopping Centre sits on and the sale of the Central Building which would be torn down for construction of the Hyatt Regency
on Centre Street.

Turley’s dedication and determination earned her the CREB® Competition For Most Sales award six times. In 1975, Turley became a member of the MLS® Million Dollar Club, followed by the Award of Merit in 1977 and a 50 year service award from CREB® in 2006.

It was in the ‘70s Turley said she’d become “very knowledgeable” in the area of Calgary’s real estate market.

“Several men in CREB® approached me to run as Director of the Calgary Real Estate Board,” she wrote in Ninety-Six and Counting. “I needed a new challenge
and agreed to let my name stand. A landslide vote elected me. In 1975, I became
the first woman director of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB®).”

While she was a trailblazer in many ways, Turley is humble about any doors she may have opened for other women in real estate.

“Everybody accepted me, it was very nice,” she said. “Because I had the knowledge and I was able to impart my knowledge, whatever it was, I could’ve stayed on longer but we were doing so much traveling it was interfering with that.”

Turley and her husband Lou, who passed away in 2001, spent a lot of time traveling the world in their later years together. Turley is also an avid sportswoman and in the past played baseball and golf and spent a lot of years on the curling rink.

With more than five decades experience in the field of real estate, Turley’s advice for up and coming REALTOR®s is simple, “I think it’s an [anyone’s] business. It’s up to the individual what they like.”

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