TORONTO – With her 90th birthday on the horizon, Maire Hollo had a need for speed.
The great-grandmother said she had long been a fan of Formula One racing and wanted to mark turning another year older with an advance celebration that involved being driven around a racetrack at more than 200 kilometres an hour.
On Monday, she checked that activity off her bucket list after being taken around the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., by veteran race car driver Peter Lockhart, who was inducted to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2016.
“It was so wonderful. I loved every second of it,” Hollo told The Canadian Press. “My actual birthday is in November, but we celebrate it all year.”
Hollo, who lives in Toronto, said Lockhart took her around the track three times.
“It’s always excited me,” Hollo said of professional racing. “It was so much fun. I would do it any time again.”
It’s not the first time Hollo has marked a birthday with an adrenaline-pumping activity.
To celebrate turning 89, she said she went skydiving. For her 84th birthday, she strapped on a harness and walked around the edge of Toronto’s CN Tower – an activity that took place 356 metres off the ground.
And when she turns 91, Hollo said she plans on going dog-sledding in Quebec.
“This is just stuff I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.
Born in Finland before moving to Toronto in 1953, Hollo said she’s always been stubborn and has never liked being told what to do. She said she was married for 30 years and that her now-deceased husband never wanted her to get a job or a drivers license – but she did both behind his back.
“He was always so jealous,” she said. “He thought I was going to go out and find another man, but I didn’t.”
Hollo said she always wanted to go on adventures and be a daredevil, but she wanted to wait until her three kids were older. Now she has five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
One of Hollo’s children said she fully sports her mother’s interests.
“I think it’s absolutely awesome,” Hollo’s daughter, Susan Hollo Wontorra, said of her mother’s adventures.
Hollo’s doctor warned her against skydiving because “she could die,” Hollo Wontorra recalled, saying her mother responded, “Well, I’m going to die soon anyways so I better do this now.”
The only kind of activity Hollo said she isn’t considering is scuba diving, or anything to do with the ocean, explaining she almost drowned when she was a baby and has a fear of water.
Hollo said her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are always asking her what she’s going to do next.
“I always tell them that I’m not normal,” said Hollo, laughing. “Life is too short. You might not be capable to do anything later on.”