A 91-year-old James Bay senior has become something of a local celebrity, due to her ability to get strangers smiling. Every morning, Norma McColl, a resident at The Glenshiel senior living facility, sits at her favourite spot by the window and holds up one of her home-made signs. The speech-bubble shaped signs hold a selection of friendly and positive words, from ‘Howya doing?’ to ‘You’re Awesome!’ The reaction has been stressed commuters stopping to wave and smile – often the whole street.
“She has a sign and a big smile and it starts the day off right. My wife and I look forward to seeing her,” said Bill MacDonald, a local resident.
Ivan Fletcher, who walks past Norma everyday agrees, “She has a very alive smile and her signs always have clever sayings.”
McColl first started using her signs two years ago and has made such an impact on brightening stressed commuters’ days that many return to bring her flowers or cards. Sitting with her trusty teddybear, Pippy Candy, she likes to use the signs to communicate.
“Some people think I’m just sitting here, but having a sign shows them a few things!” she said.
“She’s become something of an icon,” said Lynn Larsen, the executive director of The Glenshiel. “The other residents love her and when she’s away they’ll step in and hold her signs for her.”
The Victoria senior lists her hobbies as knitting, roller skating and bike riding. “When I was younger, my brother said I was too small to ride a bicycle and do things. But I borrowed a boy’s bicycle and soon was dodging the haystacks. The local club then bought me a bike, so I sure proved him wrong.”
Although Norma finds it difficult to indulge in her hobbies these days, she gets great satisfaction from cheering up the strangers who pass her window.
“I try to keep them smiling. Holy Crow! Some people need a smile.”