Cheryl Stang takes great joy in nurturing both gardens and children alike.
“It’s really rewarding seeing something you planted grow,” she said. “It’s like the fruit of your labor.”
Stang’s garden at 122 S. Cedar St., Marion, is filled with flowers — some grown by her children that would have been entered in the Marion County Fair as 4-H projects.
But this summer has been filled with tragedy for the mother of eight. Instead of tending her garden, she and her family have been recovering from the death of Stang’s 18-year-old son, Jeremiah, who died in a car accident in July.
Homegrown flowers played a role in his funeral. Zinnias and sunflowers her children were growing for the fair instead were placed on the casket.
When her children were younger, the family lived in Sedgwick near a train track. As a busy mother, Stang’s love for gardening was so intense, she found herself tending it at night, after the children were in bed.
“Sometimes it was midnight,” Stang said. “I know the people on the train wondered what I was doing.”
She moved her family to a farm near Marion in 1999. It took all of March to move her perennials to the farm. She moved to town in 2003 and again moved plants with the help of her children.
Stang estimates 60 percent of the flowers at her home originally were planted in Sedgwick. She said gardening is therapeutic for her.
She hasn’t gardened as much since the accident but looks forward to returning to something she enjoys.
Jeremiah loved flowers, she said. He often commented on flowers she brought in from the garden and roses at the Harms ranch, where he worked. He also took close-up pictures of her flowers blooming at the beginning of spring.
Several people suggested planting a memorial garden for Jeremiah, Stang said. She plans to do exactly that but is unsure where, because flowers already take up much of the yard.
She has a good idea what she will plant, wherever she finds space for his garden.
“Jeremiah loved roses,” she said.