British Columbia

Gerry's Garden brightens landscape of North Vancouver park

Tucked away in the southwest corner of North Vancouver's Loutet Park is a sign that reads, simply: "Gerry's Garden."

96-year-old Gerry MacPherson built the community garden after losing his son to cancer

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)

Tucked away in the southwest corner of North Vancouver's Loutet Park is a sign that reads, simply: "Gerry's Garden."

Gravel paths wind through the garden's flowers and lush greenery — built up from nothing over the last nine years by 96-year-old neighbourhood resident Gerry MacPherson.

Gerry lost his son, Jeff, to cancer in 2007, and needed a way to occupy himself. So, he started fixing up a beat-up piece of land in the park that sits between a parking lot and an elementary school.

"This was all a vacant lot here," Gerry told The Early Edition's Jason D'Souza.

"It was like a dump. It needed to be cleaned up."

The garden's stone centrepiece was donated by the students of the nearby elementary school. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

Nine years in the making

Now, the garden is home to trees, flowers and a large stone centrepiece donated by the students of Brooksbank Elementary.

"[He] had to do something," says Gerry's wife Molly. "Couldn't just sit at home."

Gerry has had a few health problems recently, including a stroke, a burst appendix and heart surgery, but it hasn't stopped him from working on the garden.

"First thing in the morning, he gets dressed, and we have breakfast, and he says, 'I'm going to the garden,'" Molly said.

"He just loves to be here. Makes him feel closer to Jeff, I guess."

Gerry claims he "doesn't know one plant from the other," but that hasn't stopped him from covering the once-vacant lot with flowers, bushes and trees. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

A labour of love

Many the garden's features were donated by neighbours, including the iconic sign at the front. People came to watch and give speeches when it was first installed.

But Gerry's favourite part of the garden is a small wooden bench, surrounded by flowers, inscribed with the words: "In loving memory of our dear son, Jeff MacPherson, forever in all our hearts."

Molly knows her late son would be proud of what his father has built over the years.

"'Thank you, Dad, and I love you all,'" she said, overcome with emotion. "That's what he would say."

"[Jeff would say,] 'you're nuts,'" Gerry says, with a hint of a laugh. "He'd tell me to go and take a cruise somewhere."

Gerry's favourite part of the garden is a bench dedicated to his son. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

With files from Jason D'Souza and CBC's The Early Edition.