Perren Blackett Law
An Association of Independent Law Practices


My first, best and dearest boss. #GetOnWithIt

My first, best and dearest boss passed away recently.  I have been thinking a lot about how to honour her contribution to shaping the woman that I am today.  

Perhaps sharing what made her my best boss is the best I can do, if not nearly enough. 

I count Anne Saunders as one of the most influential people of my youth.

For many families in the Ottawa Valley, Mrs. Saunders was a Purveyor of Joy – providing us with the joy of bouncing, running, playing, climbing, fresh air, sunshine, nature, laughing at Saunders Farm.

Too long ago, at the rip old age of 13, I wanted to stop delivering newspapers door-to-door and start earning “real money”.  My Dad told me to call Mrs. Saunders and ask for a job picking her strawberries at the farm - just about the only source of youth employment in our tiny hamlet. 

Scared to pick up the phone, I asked my Dad if he could call for me, he said no.  This was a step I needed to take on my own.

I remember calling.  I was so nervous I was in tears.  Mrs. Saunders did not hesitate to hire a rather shy, terribly awkward 13 year old girl.  I thought she did so because she knew my Mom and Dad.  I was wrong (I think).  She took a chance, gave me a shot.

Mrs. Saunders gave me and many others that critical first foray into the workforce - marked with responsibility, hard work, hard earned money, and being part of a team beyond family.

I began picking strawberries and “graduated” to helping Mrs. Saunders weed her beloved garden in the afternoons… this was no promotion; the garden was huge, and the summer sun very hot.  This was an eagerly sought after stamp of approval.  Mrs. Saunders was always weeding that garden too, right alongside me and others.  She worked hard, very hard, and demonstrated that work ethic every day by rolling up her sleeves and getting into the weeds with the rest of us - literally.

Mostly, I credit Mrs. Saunders with her kitchen table.  Mrs. Saunders had the biggest kitchen table I have ever seen.  There was always a seat at Mrs. Saunders kitchen table for me. 

Mrs. Saunders always had time for a hug, a cookie, a glass of lemonade, a chat.  She fed my tummy and my soul, she made me strong.

I have come to realize that she never “had” time, she always “made” time.  She made time for this rather shy, terribly awkward girl.  What a blessing.

Over the 9 years that I worked at Saunders Farm, Mrs. Saunders showed me that she was proud of me.  I was promoted from the berry field, to basket weigher, car parker, ticket taker, port-a-potty checker, to many similar jobs during the “haunting season”.  All the while, Mrs. Saunders encouraged me to take on more, to do more, to be more involved.  I was still rather shy and terribly awkward at 22, and she never forced me to don a costume and be part of the "fright team". There was always a way I could contribute, without playing to my own fears.

What a blessing to have had Mrs. Saunders as a guide, a leader, a teacher, a boss, a Purveyor of Joy.  

What a blessing to have had a place at Mrs. Saunders' kitchen table.  

So.  All present and future bosses take note:

  • Take a chance on someone, give them a shot.
  • Work hard, very hard, alongside your team.
  • Demonstrate work ethic.
  • Roll up your sleeves, get into the weeds.
  • Make sure every member of your team has a seat – even the berry pickers.
  • Feed your team.
  • Be a source of support and strength.
  • Provide opportunity, without fear of failure.
  • Acknowledge that everyone can contribute - even the shy, awkward girl who is afraid of her own shadow. 
  • Make time.
  • Be proud.
  • Encourage more.
  • Be a guide, a leader, a teacher, a boss, a Purveyor of Joy.

Now, to quote my first, best and dearest boss… it's time to #GetOnWithIt.


Janet Nystedt