I was visiting my friend Gerry recently, who celebrated his 100th birthday this month.
The City of North Vancouver mayor, council, firefighters and police threw him a big party and gave him the Freedom of the City award, the highest honour the municipality can bestow upon on a citizen.
Gerry certainly deserves this.
I first met Gerry walking along the trail behind Brooksbank Elementary. He was clearing brush from the trail, hacking away at blackberries and keeping himself busy to deal with the pain of losing his son Jeff to cancer.
His seemingly boundless energy, friendly, engaging spirit and constant presence on an old hydro right of way full of blackberry bushes soon endeared him in the hearts of all who frequented the area.
Daily he greeted every human and dog who passed by that spot. He became a friend to everyone. In the early days his canine companion Caleb joined him as he worked, but Caleb was elderly and crossed the rainbow bridge, leaving Gerry behind. Sometimes Molly, Gerry’s wife came to keep him company and greet the throngs.
As the blackberry patch began to transform into a garden the children at Brooksbank, especially the students in Ms. Reicherts’ class, took an interest in the garden. They did fundraising and donated the money to purchase a basalt pillar to engrave and place in the garden. That’s when the city got involved – it was a heavy piece of rock and chances could not be taken of it falling on someone.
Of course, the work crews became part of the community built around Gerry’s garden. The garden grew, people donated plants and time and knowledge to help the garden grow and change. A beautiful sign – “Gerry’s Garden” – was carved and installed. It seems like everyone who walked through the area participated in their own way to help grow the community. As the garden grew and changed, Gerry kept coming up with more and more ideas of how to make the area special. In 2018 he decided the pine tree should have Christmas lights.
In 2019, the firefighters joined in and used their boom truck to light the tree. Of course, the schoolboard also got involved, the lights needed power which was provided by the school. A neighbor donated 100 tulips last fall for a spring display to honour Gerry’s 100th birthday this spring.
As I visited Gerry recently, his strength and determination to enjoy his future tulip show is evident. After suffering a fall a few weeks ago, his bruised and broken body is maneuvered by his strong, grateful, loving spirit. Molly and Gerry are certainly two very prominent cherished elders in our Loutet Farm, Brooksbank and neighbourhood community.
We all wish Gerry a very happy and healthy 101st trip around the sun.
Heather Schamehorn is a certified residential landscape designer, educator, sustainability advocate and acupressurist. Contact via www.perennialpleasures.ca