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Congratulations to the WS YOU 177
winning story in the Listen to a Life Contest!

Neya Ramanan, 14 years old and student in grade 9, and
105-year-old Whitchurch-Stouffville resident Marjorie Gayman.
Marjorie currently resides at Parkview Home.
Neya, and her brother Thesan, interviewed Marjorie for the contest.
Neya wins a $500 gift card from a major retailer
courtesy of Nurse Next Door


What would it be like to live for over a hundred years? The amount of knowledge and experience accumulated throughout the years would be astounding. 105-year-old Stouffville resident Marjorie Gayman has had the knowledge of a century's worth of information – from the sinking of the historic Titanic, to the beginning of the two world wars, to the growth of our very own Stouffville.

Marjorie Gayman

Marjorie was born and raised as one of five children. The family lived on the fleeting outskirts of the then Stouffville, in the quaint little town of Almira. The population was only about 150 people, and the uneven dirt roads and humble shops were signs of a close-knit community.

Despite living near many of her relatives, Marjorie was especially close with her grandparents; they were the people she looked up to as a child. She aspired to become a nurse. She spent the majority of her childhood helping around the house, her father's Wool and Grist Mill, and focusing on her studies at Stouffville High School, where all the students were taught to be friendly and considerate of everyone. This lesson transferred to Marjorie's adult life, where she made sure to properly instruct her children of proper values and etiquette: to always be thankful, to love, and to be respectful.

Although Marjorie did not live the "dream life" of making a great deal of money, or travelling the globe, she was always grateful for what she had. She was grateful for understanding parents, in difficult times, and grateful for the way she was brought up. Spending time with such an astonishing Stouffville local has made me realize that the things that we may be taking for granted, someone else is praying for. We should always be thankful and cherish what life hands us.

We received many great entries from Whitchurch-Stouffville students! Although not everyone can be an "official winner," each person – younger and older – who participated is a winner. Listening to the stories of elders can change lives and communities. Here's a miscellaneous selection of some of the other local entries…

Shyana Srikanthalingam, 15, and grandfriend Diane Ward, 75

Diane and Shyana

"And it's done," Diane said.

Licking the envelope, she prepared to hand in the application. The man at the desk took her papers. He scanned the envelope, and raised an eyebrow.

"Architecture?" he smirked.

"Yes, that's what I'm applying to." Diane said, confidently, while wondering to herself if she had done something wrong.

"Why should you take the place of a bread-winning man?"

She looked at him with anger. She was on the brink of tears. All her life Diane had been told that she could do anything – and this man says she cannot?

Diane walked away, heartbroken.

She later applied to the Architecture program at a different university, but realized it wasn't what she wanted. She spent days drawing other's ideas. She wanted to show the world her creativity. Dejected, Diane decided to take the Photography program.

She walked into the lecture hall, but stopped. Every person was a man. After attending an all-girls school, this was a change.

She hurried over to a seat and sat down just as the professor walked in.

"Welcome students. Who has used a Mastra V35 before?"

A number of hands shot up. Diane slouched in her seat. The boy beside her gave her a smirk.

The teacher asked another question, "Who has used a Kodak Baby Brownie?"

Relief flooded through her, so Diane raised her hand high. The boy smirked again.

As the school year progressed, the boys became her big brothers. Her confidence returned to her, leading Diane to win Ms. Ryerson. What can I say? They loved her.

Diane through this story was trying to tell me that whatever life throws at you, whatever obstacles you face, you have to be strong and fight. There will always be people who knock you down, but also people who help you stand.

Drew Gillott-Boisvert, 13, and grandmother Sharon Gillott, 68

Someone once said, "a diamond is just a piece of coal that handled stress really well." My Grandma is like a diamond, and this is her story…

My grandmother was born May 14, 1946, to a poor family living in Toronto. Her mother was a seamstress for a sportswear company and her father was a purchasing agent for a golf equipment company. Her father became very sick when she was just 2 years old – and he only recovered slightly. She said in those days if you didn't go to work you didn't get paid because there wasn't any government assistance. When Grandma was 18, her mother died, with her dad following just five years later.

Grandma then had to quit school and go to work to raise her brother on her own, who was only 10 years old. She never had the option of what she wanted to be "when all grown up". A few years later, my grandmother did night school and correspondence courses and worked her way through many jobs until she retired as a Manager of Finances & Administration for IBM. She was happy that she never took the easy way out and she was proud for teaching her brother the benefits of a strong work ethic.

Another thing she's blissful about is having a good family that she's proud of and loves so much.

Her advice for me and future generations is that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Set a few life goals for yourself and work hard towards achieving them. Be passionate about what you do. Make random acts of kindness a way of life. Like yourself. Make time for fun. Learning should be a life-long endeavour.

Christina Romualdi, 13, and grandfather Bogoja Jovanovski, 77


Life is full of opportunities placed at our fingertips, and with one brave reach, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed. Through hope and patience, and courage and fearlessness, our goals will brightly and powerfully unfold in front of our eyes. By believing in ourselves and in our limitless dreams, we can achieve greatness. Bogoja Jovanovski is one dreamer who sure got to experience his dreams becoming reality.

Born and raised in Yugoslavia, Macedonia, my grandfather (Dedo) experienced many hardships, such as living in communism. Dedo's goals were to start a new life in a safe and free country, Canada, find a place to work, and marry the love of his life, Menka Machovski (my Baba) – all of which he achieved. Dedo always dreamed of being a father and having a beautiful family he could call his own, and that dream became a reality when he happily got married to my Baba and they had their first baby girl named Elica two years later. Not long after, Baba gave birth to a second healthy baby girl named Susan.

This wonderful couple today are two very proud, supportive, loving and selfless grandparents to seven grandchildren. All of their goals they have had in the past fifty years of their marriage have blissfully come true, with only one more remaining: to be alive to get to see all seven of their grandchildren get married. With one getting married in October of 2015 and six more to go, I hope I will get to see my grandparents in the church pew on my wedding day.

So I'm telling you, no matter how massive or how tiny your hopes may be, "Don't ever give up," said my Dedo.

Emily Winters, 12, and grandfather Tom Winters, 68

Emily and Tom Winters

Tom Winters main goal is to raise a good, strong healthy family and to impress on them to have a social conscience.

He left home when very young, so had to finish his school at night so he could go to college. He applied himself and worked hard. He does not really think his dreams have changed; sometimes it was hard and difficult to get money and it was hard to find a good job.

My grandma is a big help for him. He worked on his business as a plumber for 53 years. He had to stop his business because he was tired. He worked for another company to train an apprentice. Sadly, he got cancer when he was 67 and it changed everything. He now has a lot of procedures, and things for him are difficult and for all of us to see him go through it. But he stuck through it, moved on, and is still trying to get things done around the house.

My grandpa has traveled throughout Canada and has been places I've never even heard of. I've learned that my grandpa Tom Winters cares about the community and his family very much. I also learned he sticks to his thoughts and listens to what he is being told to do. He works hard and sets a good example for others. Even though he has gone through tough times, he stuck through and persevered.

He's taught me so much in life, like building things and how to grow gardens and how to be nicer to others. And even though he hides it, I know my grandpa cares a lot about me and my whole family.

Alyson Wawryk, 13, and grandfriend Sharon Norton, 61

Inspiration is a word commonly used when I talk about my school's dedicated and incredible crossing guard, Sharon Norton. Not only does she spend her morning, lunches, and afternoons walking back and forth and having to hold up a heavy stop sign, but she enjoys doing so because she takes pride in what she does.

Sharon Louise Ransom was born on August 30th, 1953 in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She grew up with three brothers and one sister. Later on, Sharon and her family moved to a farm house in Goodwood. Sharon was thrilled to be at her new house and looked forward to memories her family would create.

She met her husband Larry in high school, where they fell in love. After high school, the couple moved to Stouffville, and she applied to be a nurses aide, but later found a job closer to home. 26 years ago, Sharon began working as a crossing guard and has always showed up to work with a smile on her face.

She is important to me because she ensures safety to children and adults. Her favourite part of her job is seeing the smiles. Our society is changing, every day and each second. Students are losing the skill of communication, and it's amazing that Sharon loves to talk about anything, because she's always there to listen.

Sharon has taught me that it's better to stop and smell the roses rather than rushing through life. She takes pride in her job, but most of all, the children and adults she keeps safe each day.

Sums up Sharon, "Life goes by fast; so slow down, and seize the moment. You can't predict the future, but you can make a change, in society, in the world, but most importantly in you."

Jaime Pompilio, 14, and grandmother Aita Pompilio, 72


An apprehensive young family set out on a journey, with their one-year-old daughter perched in the basket of a bicycle they had purchased with a handful of gold jewelry. They followed the stream of refugees headed for Germany, searching for safety. It was 1943, and the Russians were taking over their homeland of Estonia in an attempt to secure power during World War ll. Their exhausting search for safety was filled with monumental hardships, with no safe harbor in all of Europe. The seemingly endless trip to Germany led them to a refugee camp, filled with other displaced families, forced to leave behind the comfort of their homes and identities.

The young girl's only source of hope for a promising future was her parents who shone a positive light into her world, giving her confidence and unconditional love. Due to the desperate conditions, the young girl's father made her shoes out of recycled leather and rubber. In a determined attempt to put shoes on his daughter's feet, he used anything he could find. He put his heart and soul into his daughter and everything he gave her. She was their blessing. When he placed the shoes in her delicate hands, she looked at her father with such admiration. It didn't matter to her that she had been given two left shoes. When she held them in her hands, in that moment, she knew how much she was truly loved.

That young girl has become the lovely, caring and joyful person I know today as my grandmother. When she was six years old, she boarded a ship headed for Canada, where she was delighted by what we know today as some of life's simple pleasures: peanut butter, bananas, pretty dresses – and left and right shoes.

Helena Mojsoska, 14, and grandmother Danica Vasileska, 60

Dream. One simple word, yet it can mean so much to someone. What can a dream be defined as? Are dreams simply a series of images or sensations, or a creation based on feelings or occurrences? To an elder, dreams are defined as something completely different.

By posing the question, "What does it mean to dream?" to my grandmother, I learned that she and I had a different way of dreaming. My grandmother considers 'dreaming' as creating fantasies of the future. She instantly told me that dreams have a way of changing. As a little girl, her dream was to be a princess. By becoming a teenager, those unrealistic dreams vanished, and she wished to enroll in a university. Later on, her dreams were for her to give birth to a healthy child. When she gave birth to my mother, her dreams were fulfilled, and all that she could do was create more dreams to pass down to her children. When my mom and dad moved to Canada, her world came crashing down. She thought that all of her dreaming was for nothing, since her most treasured possession was moving away. My grandmother told me that when she and her daughter were separated, all that she did was remain strong. I learned from her that it is okay to dream, but these dreams shouldn't consume us because there is no guarantee that they will all come true.

Dreams change with aging. At a young age, dreams are bright colours. But when difficult times arise and maturity takes over, dreams can be despairing. My grandmother is truly a dreamer, because when times were difficult, her dreams were always blissful. Even if our dreams aren't fulfilled, we can always go to bed, and dream more. Maybe, our dream will come true after all.

Maanasa Rajaguru, 16, and grandfriend Gerald Turner, 75

Over 100 years ago, the Wright brothers flew an airplane in the first controlled flight in history. They were able to fly because they possessed one major skill: perseverance. Thanks to them, airplanes have been used in war and in peace, and have helped connect our world. Airplanes and aviation history are fascinating, so there's no surprise they interest many people.

Maanasa and Gerald

Gerald Turner is one of these people. He was born in Hamilton, in July 1939, and he spent his childhood there. When he was 15, he first rode on an airplane, and soon after, he joined the Air Force as a summer job during high school.

After high school, Gerald Turner went straight into the work force, but he ended up going to McMaster University through his employer. He was first in his class, and a visiting professor from University of Toronto offered him a job as a Technologist. For 39 years, he held this position. When he retired, he had the longest service at University of Toronto, outside of the professors.

Although his job did not have to do with them, Gerald Turner still loved airplanes and aviation history. Along with a friend, he went to England to explore aviation sites. There, he met his wife at a bed and breakfast inn. She was an American from Seattle, although she lived in New York, and she too was a tourist. They kept in touch, and eventually got married. It was thanks to the aviation sightseeing trip that Gerald met his wife.

Gerald Turner's life is much like the first controlled flight in history: it has its ups and downs, but is still quite an achievement. Throughout his life, he worked hard, resulting in success. Much like the Wright brothers, his greatest skill is perseverance.

Emma Gunathunge, 13, and grandfriend Fred Robbins, 61


According to Urban Dictionary the definition of coach is someone who wants the best for his team, supports them no matter what, and encourages development – a trainer, mentor, and teacher. You might know Fred Robbins as the town historian, but he's also a coach and this describes him to a T. He's devoted his entire life to coaching and helping young aspiring track superstars maximize their potential.

Fred Robbins

Born in 1954, Fred grew up on the track. He was never the brightest kid in his class simply because he would spend every spare minute running. You would often find Fred running laps around the school until his muscles felt like jelly and his calves would burn as if they were on fire. But the next day, no matter how onerous the weather, you would find him right back at it.

Fred, or Captain Fred as the kids at Ka Ke Ka camp would call him, was a man of determination and hard work. In his first cross country race he placed 135th out of 150, just 15 places shy from last. This motivated him to work even harder and accomplish even more. With his mind set on accomplishing the best he could, he set out on a journey that has brought him to where he is today. Fred has accomplished many amazing things: he won the athlete of the year at his school without being a football player, ran the Boston Marathon twice, won many awards for his excellent coaching skills, and was an official at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Fred taught us what it really means to work hard and accomplish your goals. He says that if he could go back in time to his younger self, he wouldn't change a thing – just remind himself to be a young man with a good character and morals.

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