Although Ollerenshaw did not have a typical research career by today's standards, mathematics has always permeated her life. It is the way she approaches the world. "Every true mathematician sees mathematics everywhere—in a child's swing or a pendulum, in the outline shape of a tree and that of its leaves, in the clouds," she wrote. Both asking the right questions and finding the answers always excited her. "When I found a good mathematical result, I jumped around in glee with Charles, then about four. If we then went out for a walk, he would stop people we knew with a proud announcement: 'Mother's got a sum right, mother's got a sum right,'" she wrote.
In 1990 Ollerenshaw plunged into her hobby of astronomy with typical fervor. She purchased a telescope and created an observatory at Hodge Close. She learned everything she could about astronomy and carefully arranged to observe eclipses and comets, either on trips or from her cottage. During the next few years she upgraded her telescopes several times, eventually donating one to Lancaster University. In 2002 the university named their rebuilt observatory after Ollerenshaw. Astronomy, like mathematics, gave her the joy of discovery and helped her cultivate many friendships.
Ollerenshaw's path in life would not have been possible without her having been born into a well-off family or without her husband's income, which provided amply for their family and meant that she did not have to work herself. One can't help but wonder how her career and life would have been different if she had been born 50 or 70 years later. Her deafness could have been treated earlier, and her mathematical abilities might have been nurtured much more actively at all levels of her education. She probably would have been encouraged to pursue a research career as a professor of pure or applied mathematics. But, Edwards wrote, "the main point about Dame Kathleen is that she did not have one career, she has had many." Today's typical research career may actually have been limiting for her. "I do not think that Dame Kathleen would have been suited to become an industrial mathematician or hold a university post. Had she been born much later, I think her life might have been channeled down a narrow route—like the rest of us."
Today Ollerenshaw is somewhat limited by her declining vision and hearing. But Edwards wrote that she is still remarkably active for someone her age, and her mind is as bright as ever. (She occasionally chides him for ignorance of an event in the news.) She leads the Remembrance Day parade in Manchester every year (observed on November 11, the U.K. holiday is similar to Veterans' Day or Memorial Day), attends the annual Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Lectures at the University of Manchester and even attended the Summer Olympics in London for a day. She is still working on several research projects that interest her, including the statistics of social change and another paper on magic squares. Edwards wrote that the projects may not be completed due to age-related challenges but, "certainly it won't be for a lack of mental abilities, because her mind is as sharp as anybody's I know."
For her birthday, Edwards wrote that Dame Kathleen will be having a party for friends and neighbors in her garden.
*Correction (9/18/12): This sentence was edited after posting to correct the year Ollerenshaw met Terry Edwards.