Peggy Dow

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Peggy Dow
Peggy Dow MS152.jpg
Modern Screen magazine, 1952
Peggy Josephine Varnadow

(1928-03-18) March 18, 1928 (age 95)
Other namesPeggy V. Helmerich
EducationUniversity of Southern Mississippi
Northwestern University
OccupationFilm actress
Years active1949–1952
Walter Helmerich III
(m. 1951; died 2012)

Peggy Dow (born Peggy Josephine Varnadow; March 18, 1928)[1] is an American philanthropist and former actress who had a brief (1949–52) career in Hollywood at Universal Studios starring in films during the Golden Age Era in the late 40's and early 1950s. She is perhaps best known for her roles as Nurse Kelly in Harvey (1950) and Judy Greene in Bright Victory (1951).

Early life[edit]

Born in Columbia, Mississippi, at age 4 she moved with her family to Covington, Louisiana. She attended high school and junior college at Gulf Park College in Gulfport, Mississippi (now the Gulf Park campus of the University of Southern Mississippi), then finished college at Northwestern University in Illinois, appearing in college plays and receiving her degree from Northwestern's School of Speech in 1948.[2][3]


After brief modeling and radio experience, Dow was spotted by a talent agent and cast in a television show in February 1949. Shortly after that exposure, Universal offered her a seven-year contract. Dow made nine films, most notably as Nurse Kelly in Harvey (1950), starring James Stewart,[4] and co-starring with Best Actor Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy in Bright Victory (1951).[5] After being featured in several crime dramas, Dow had starring roles in two 1951 family films, Reunion in Reno and You Never Can Tell.

Dow retired after three years in the business to marry Walter Helmerich III, an oil driller[6] from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951. He became president of his family's business, Helmerich & Payne. They were married for 60 years, until his death in 2012. The couple had five sons.[7] She became an active supporter of libraries and other charities.[8]

The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, an award given annually since 1985 to a distinguished author by the Tulsa Library Trust, is named in her honor,[9] as is the drama school at the University of Oklahoma[10] and the auditorium at Northwestern University School of Communication's Annie May Swift Hall.[11]



  1. ^ Interview,, October 2013; accessed August 11, 2015.[dead link]
  2. ^ lived in Athens, Tn and married in Athens, Tn "Peggy V. Helmerich: Hollywood Starlet & Gracious Philanthropist"[permanent dead link], Voices of Oklahoma, October 9, 2009 (interview transcript).
  3. ^ "Annie May Swift Hall", Northwestern University (accessed June 11, 2014).[dead link]
  4. ^ "Peggy Dow in lead". Toledo Blade. March 25, 1951. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Cathy Logan, "Tulsa's Peggy Dow Knew Him When", Tulsa World, July 3, 1997.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Wedding bells for Peggy Dow today". Milwaukee Sentinel. November 24, 1951. Retrieved February 28, 2014.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Tulsa Businessman Walter Helmerich III Dead At 88",, January 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Oklahoma Library Legends: Peggy Helmerich Archived January 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine at Oklahoma State University library website (retrieved May 23, 2009).
  9. ^ "Helmerich Family Leaves Fascinating Legacy", GTR Newspapers, July 6, 2007 (retrieved May 23, 2009).[dead link]
  10. ^ "OU School of Drama Named to Honor Peggy Dow Helmerich", University of Oklahoma Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, December 6, 2012.
  11. ^ "Annie May Swift Renovation to Begin", Northwestern University, June 6, 2006.

External links[edit]