Nan’s no easy rider
Annual motorcycle ride highlight of 94-year-old’s birthday
A crisp new blouse with a blue pattern sits on Lillian “Nan” Butt’s bed, a birthday gift from a close friend.
It’s a beautiful blouse and she appreciates the kind gesture. But the highlight of her 94th birthday on June 21 was not a material item. This was her sixth year taking part in a motorcycle ride on Father’s Day, which fell on her actual date of birth this year in this instance.
Many have called her crazy to get on a motorcycle at her age, but Nan lives by the saying you’re only as young as you feel.
If that’s the case, she feels decades younger, she tells The Compass during an interview at Luxury Estates in Carbonear.
“I’m not a party pooper,” she said.
Hitting the road
It was 2009 when Victoria United Church saw a group of motorcycle riders gather for a Father’s Day ride. Rev. Jesse Bown blessed the riders, and Nan saw it as an opportunity to do something she always wanted to.
“I said, ‘I’m going to have a ride on the bike,’” the sharp and enthusiastic woman explains. It then became a tradition. “When June comes, I always look forward to my birthday,” said Nan, a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. “Not for the sake of my birthday, but for my bike ride.”
A photo on the wall shows her first ride, which she is proud of. For the first few years, Nan wore a bandana on her head and a jean jacket. This year she tried something different.
“I wore scarves around my neck so they were flying behind me,” a smile spreads across her face. “My friends think I’m nuts.”
The idea that being on a motorcycle could be dangerous or scary doesn’t cross Nan’s mind. She enjoys the wind in her face and driving through the town on the back of the bike. “I’m having fun,” she explains. When asked what other exciting things she wants to do in the future, she is quick to reply with what is left on her to-do list — a helicopter ride and a basket ride in a hot air balloon.
But that is not all she wants to do. Friends have invited her along to go zip lining. Although she is not quite sure that will happen yet, she is excited about the possibility.
A mini stroke within the last year forced Nan to leave her apartment, as could no longer live on her own. She moved into Luxury Estates not long after.
“I stayed by myself as long as I could.”
In her apartment she used to have visitors in for tea and also had a Nintendo Wii console, which she used to play bowling games with friends.
“I enjoyed all the company,” she says.
As she ages there are things she can no longer do, but that is not a hinderance. She has been asked by people if she could go back in time, what age would she choose.
“I say I never look back and wish I was younger again,” Nan explains. “I enjoyed my life. I had wonderful parents, a wonderful husband and a nice Christian life, and I enjoy it to the fullest.”
There are some things she hasn’t been able to take part in as much as she used to, like water aerobics at the pool, and she doesn’t read much anymore due to reduced vision in her left eye. But Nan doesn’t allow any of that to get her down.
“I have a lot of faith,” she said. “That’s why I’m in such good spirits.”
Keep it going
A doctor visits sporadically, and Nan has a clean bill of health thus far.
“He told me that I’m going to live for another 50 years,” she laughs.
The self-proclaimed “nutty” woman points out a plastic bird on a branch that sits on her night stand. She tells The Compass reporter to go press the button.
The bird begins to sing, “We wish you a merry Christmas,” and Nan smiles a wide grin.
That is one of her favourite items — it also shows how quirky she is. Several of her friends received the same bird from her as a gift, but she doesn’t know if they still have them. If they don’t, Nan believes it’s because they’re not as nutty as she is.
The fun will never end for her either. She wants to continue doing the fun things that make life exciting, and hopes to keep riding the bike for years to come.
“Every year I’ll be on that bike as long as I’m alive.”
Lillian “Nan” Butt (left) sits on the back of Nick Ash’s motorcycle on her 94th birthday, Sunday, June 21.