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This article first appeared in the September 10, 2014 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Wakefield community celebrity to reach milestone

By Joel Balsam

When this reporter walked into Norma Geggie's house in Wakefield, I was immediately greeted at the door and offered fresh cherries. As I entered her living room to chat, I walked by a spinning wheel and old furniture stereotypical of an 89-yearold grandmother. But Geggie is not your typical granny.

In her 90th year on Earth, Geggie is probably the most well-known community activist in Wakefield, having spearheaded two wildly successful charities. First, Geggie mothered the Wakefield Grannies ten years ago, which skyrocketed to international attention and inspired hundreds more groups like it to follow suit. Second, Geggie helped start an ambitious project to build a palliative care centre in Wakefield called La Maison des Collines. "I think that I'm as busy now as I ever have been," said Geggie, who will be turning 90 on Sept. 14.

Norma Geggie
NOT YOUR TYPICAL GRANNY: Wakefield activist and hyper-engaged community member, Norma Geggie, will be celebrating her 90th birthday this week. Joel Balsam photo.

Originally from Australia, Geggie moved to Wakefield where she worked as a nurse and met her late husband. She spent many years travelling through Europe, South America, and Africa. When asked if she would do anything differently if given the choice, Geggie couldn't think of anything, except maybe spending more time exploring the world. "I think I've had a fairly satisfying life ... [but] I think I would have liked to have been able to travel a little more," she said.

Looking back on all she has accomplished, Geggie said the amount she has done in her life is difficult to grasp. "By the time you reach 90, you realize you've had many lives. I think of different things I've done in parts of my life - it almost seems like a separate life."

But the mother of three and grandmother of three doesn't see 90 as any different from 89 or 88. "We have no say in this, do we? I just resign to sort of hang in there," she said. "But anyway, I'm enjoying life."

As long as she has her health, Geggie says she doesn't really mind how old she gets (her eldest cousin lived to 103). And the soon-to-be nonagenarian is not taking her foot off the gas pedal anytime soon. Geggie is passionate about bringing the palliative care centre to the community and hopes to push hard with more fundraising in the coming months to get the millions the charity needs for people to die peacefully and without pain.

Admittedly, the charity sounds grim to think about, but that doesn't make it any less important. "It sounds gloomy but it doesn't need to be. I think people need to ... be able to die with pain control and so on. There's so many illnesses now that are associated with a lot of pain, and for people to have this sort of relief and to just spend their final weeks in as much comfort as possible, that's really what palliative care is."

In honour of her birthday, La Maison des Collines plans to put a symbolic shovel in the ground on the property reserved for the future palliative care building. Geggie's family will be arriving from Australia for this event and will all go to Les Fougères for dinner afterwards. "I can't think of a nicer place," said Geggie of her birthday dinner location.

For members of the community who want to give the famous granny a gift, people may donate to La Maison des Collines. Donations can be made on the charity's website lamaisondescollines.org.