British Columbia

98-year-old gardener given 'gift of light' thanks to school children

Ninety-eight-year-old Gerry MacPherson’s one wish for Christmas has come true thanks to some tenacious North Vancouver school children.

Gerry MacPherson put his ‘heart and soul’ into the garden but could never add lights

Grade 4 and 5 students at Brooksbank Elementary wrote letters to officials asking them to help Gerry get his lights up. (Laurie Reichert)

Gerry MacPherson's one wish for Christmas has come true thanks to some tenacious North Vancouver school children.

MacPherson, 98, is the creator and caretaker of Gerry's Garden in North Vancouver, which sits adjacent to Brooksbank Elementary school. He started the modest project as a way to cope with the loss of his son Jeff, who died of cancer in 2007.

Over the years, the garden has grown and evolved, but MacPherson has never been able to add his long-desired holiday lights due to a lack of an accessible electrical outlet.

"He's had it in his head forever [to put holiday lights in his garden]," says Don Gagans, an in-law of MacPherson's who often helps out in the garden.

Gerry MacPherson and his wife Molly lost their son to cancer in 2007; that's when Gerry started work on the garden. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

"He took it upon himself to round up a bunch of the extension cords, and at one point he was tapping into an outlet up on the playing field and running [the] cords across a parking lot in order to power the first small string of lights that they put up."

The entire process proved to be too complicated as MacPherson had to plug in the lights every evening and return first thing in the morning in order to unplug the lights and reel in the cords.

"It would much easier if there was access to a different power source," Gagans said.

"The school is much closer than the field houses and that's when the discussion came to: could we find some way of accessing power out of the school," said Gagans.

School kids to the rescue

In order to use power from the school, Gerry required approval from the City of North Vancouver, BC Hydro and the school itself.

Due to complicated jurisdiction issues, any possible solution wouldn't be likely until after the holidays. That all changed thanks to some dedicated school children.

The letters sent to officials urged them to help Gerry find a solution before Christmas. (Laurie Reichert)

"He's humble and modest about all of what he's done and he's just this fixture here in the community and the children love to say hi to him," says Laurie Reichert, a teacher at Brooksbank Elementary.

Many children in her split grade 4-5 class have become friends with MacPherson this year after they helped out in the garden. When they heard about his wish for Christmas lights, they decided to help out.

"We're studying government and so we know that letters can influence government," Reichert said. "We thought we'd take on the challenge and it worked."

The children wrote letters to BC Hydro and to the City of North Vancouver asking them to make the gardener's Christmas wish come true.

"If you can make it possible to light up the tree we'll need an outdoor outlet very soon," said one letter from 10-year-old Sam Roy.

"Christmas is coming and we want to surprise him."

It worked.

Gerry and Molly MacPherson visited the class to thank the children for their hard work. (Laurie Reichert)

'Gerry is just elated'

Earlier this month, an electrician stopped by the school to install an outlet outside the classroom and light up MacPherson's garden.

According to his wife Molly, he couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

"Gerry is just elated by all this. He's put his heart and soul [into the garden] since our son died. That's where it all began and it's gone on ever since."

For Gerry MacPherson, it's a Christmas gift come true. "The kids have been working away at it. It's a great feeling."

About the Author

Jason D'Souza is a broadcast journalist at CBC Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter @CBCdsouza

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