British Columbia

North Vancouver man, 99, given city's highest award for creating garden in son's memory

Gerry MacPherson began working on a derelict piece of land in a city park beside Brooksbank Elementary School following the death of his son Jeff in 2007, and dedicated his work to him. On Monday, he was awarded the freedom of the city.

Over more than a decade, Gerry MacPherson painstakingly built a public garden dedicated to his son Jeff

Gerry and Molly MacPherson at North Vancouver City Hall where he received the freedom of the city award for spending many hours making a lush park for the public to enjoy. (Meera Bains/CBC News)

A man who turns 100 on Wednesday has been awarded the City of North Vancouver's highest honour for creating a much visited and much loved public garden in memory of his son.

Gerry MacPherson has been working on a derelict piece of land in a city park beside Brooksbank Elementary School for more than a decade following the death of his son Jeff. Over time, it's become known simply as "Gerry's Garden."

In awarding MacPherson the freedom of the city in a special ceremony at city hall on Monday, Mayor Linda Buchanan told a crowd of his friends and family, along with city staff, that what had once been a municipal dump had became a beautiful garden thanks to his efforts.

Jeff died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 47.

"To soothe his grief, Gerry poured himself into improving the condition of this area," Buchanan said.

A bad fall that resulted in three broken ribs and a cracked pelvis last week couldn't stop MacPherson from receiving the award.

He said he managed to get a day pass from Lions Gate Hospital to attend the event.

"I'm blown right out of the water," MacPherson said after accepting the symbolic gold key.

'I can't plan the next 2 minutes'

MacPherson and his wife Molly say the garden wasn't planned — "I can't plan the next two minutes," MacPherson said — but his dedication made it flourish.

"He just went on and on and on from early morning 'til nine o'clock at night. I hardly saw him," Molly MacPherson said.

The garden is home to trees, flowers and a large stone centrepiece donated by the students of Brooksbank Elementary. Just before Christmas 2018, students at the school also helped MacPherson realize his dream of installing holiday lights at the garden.

MacPherson is hoping to leave the hospital again on Wednesday. Brooksbank students have planned a special celebration for his 100th birthday.

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