Tributes have been paid to inspirational charity volunteer Ada Gibson following her death this week aged 101.
Ada, a great-great-grandmother and community stalwart, passed away from bowel cancer at Hope House in Clayton-le-Moors early on Wednesday morning, November 9.
Ada learned to swim aged 75 and went on to raise thousands of pounds for various charities after she began completing sponsored swims at Mercer Hall Leisure Centre in the 1990s. When her health meant she could no longer swim Ada took up sponsored skipping to continue raising funds - until she developed bowel cancer six years ago.
Her daughter Barbara Wright, 74, said her ‘inspirational’ mum took on a new ‘lease of life’ when she started fundraising.
She said: “Mum did anything and everything. She raised money for epilepsy, arthritis and for cancer, all sorts of little charities that she supported and in her own way she did love people.
“Before that she was a seamstress all her life. In those days the man was the boss and the wife to stay at home and cook and look and after the children.
“When my father died my mum then came into her own being and it was then that she started swimming and fundraising. She got a new lease of life.
“It was very different from when we were growing up, when it came to her being in her 70s she loved being the centre of attention, and she was on the Jonathan Ross show and talking to Julian Clary. She loved the limelight.”
Sport fanatic Ada was Amir Khan’s biggest, and oldest, fan and Barbara said it was one of the highlights of her life when the boxing superstar visited at her then home on Grange Street in Clayton-le-Moors.
Barbara said: “She actually watched snooker and football but when Amir started boxing my mum took to him. She was absolutely thrilled to bits, she couldn’t believe that somebody so famous would come to her house and speak to her.
“It was lovely and he was the most humble man, no airs or graces just a really lovely person and it meant the world to my mum that he visited. Since then she looked on him as a son.”
Ada was born in April in 1915 and grew up on the poverty line in Haslingden, leaving her family home at 14 to become a seamstress after the death of her mother.
Barbara said: “When she was a little girl her life was quite rough. She used to tell us that in an evening the workers that came in could sit round the table but my mum and her brother who were the youngest had to stand up and all they got to eat was the top of a boiled egg and a bit of bread – that was it.”
Ada married Thomas Gibson in the early 1940s and they stayed together until his death in 1971. She never remarried.
After more than seven decades together, Barbara said it is hard for her and her siblings to say goodbye, but they hope they can give Ada the send-off she deserves.
She said: “She’s always been there for myself and my sister and brother. It’s just a shame people can’t live on forever, we will all miss her dearly.
“I remember she used to skip round the park when she was 90 years old. I know she would be thrilled to bits to hear everybody phoning up to say nice things about her, she’ll be somewhere floating around watching us all.”
She added: “I am hoping that will be a lot of people to send her off, we don’t want it to be morbid, we want it to be a celebration of her life and all the wonderful things she did.
“My mum always used to say ‘start the day with a smile, smile at everyone and they will smile back’ so one of the songs that we are going to play is ‘Smile’.
“She’s been there our whole lives. It was expected but it’s still hard for us to say goodbye.”
Cathy Yates, the Acting Manager at Hope House, said: “Ada was wonderful and well known person, and was an important part of the Hope House family, she will be sadly missed by everyone.
“Her passion for people was infectious and it inspired her to raise thousands of pounds for good causes. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends.”
Ada’s funeral will take place at All Saints Church in Clayton-le-Moors on Thursday, November 17 at 10.45am.