Lake Norman & Mooresville

Remembrance still grows after gardener’s passing

Rick Lessey keeps the marigolds, peppers and tomatoes growing in the garden that his wife, Gladys, started.
Rick Lessey keeps the marigolds, peppers and tomatoes growing in the garden that his wife, Gladys, started. Lisa Daidone

For the 2014 Mother’s Day column, I wrote about Gladys Lessey and her pride in her garden plot in the community garden on Catawba Avenue.

Gladys had planted flowers and vegetables; the plot also had a rock and an angel statue that her husband gave her. This garden was in addition to the flowers and vegetables Gladys planted in the yard in the family’s home in Magnolia Estates in Cornelius.

This April, Gladys died. Her husband, Rick, continues to plant and keep up her garden.

“Gladys was one of the first to get a plot in the community garden,” he said. “As long as I’m here, keeping this garden is just the right thing to do to honor and memorialize her.”

Rick shared the story of Gladys and her love of gardening.

“When we met more than 40 years ago, Gladys was the only woman I had ever known who bought herself flowers every Thursday,” he said. “As long as I knew her, she always had a passion for gardening and flowers. Everyone knew how much she liked flowers and getting back to nature.

“Gladys would be weeding or deadheading her roses, working all day and continuing to work in the dark. The neighbors would say, ‘Gladys, go in the house. It’s dark outside,’ and she’d answer, ‘I can still see the weeds,’ and keep working.”

Rick thought for a moment and said, “I’m not doing as great a job outside as she did. I don’t dedicate enough time. But I am trying to keep up her orchids in the kitchen. They take work.

“Gardening was her thing,” Rick said. “If you gave her a little bit of space, she’d put a plant in it. Our house looked like a jungle. The house was an indoor arboretum. Did I like it? No. I went along with the program to keep her happy. Now, I keep flowers from her garden in the house. I have a vase of her roses in the kitchen.”

Rick said that almost everywhere Gladys went, she’d come home with a plant: “She’d go someplace and pinch off a leaf, bring it home, and it’d become a plant. One time, Gladys took a plant that a friend had thrown out and made it flower. She nursed back that plant. Her friend came over and asked where Gladys got the beautiful plant. She said, ‘I hate to tell you, but it’s the plant you threw to the curb. And you can’t have it back. You’ll kill it.’”

Rick smiled.

“The girl just liked flowers,” Rick said. “Now I take flowers to her grave every Thursday.”

Lisa Daidone is a freelance writer: