"Even though Ernie Egloff wasn't able to be with us in human form as we planted seeds and plants and laughed and remembered him," Carbon community member and Egloff family friend Shane Wilson-White said, "we know that he was elbow to elbow with us as we broke ground and planted hope for a productive crop for our neighbors and ourselves."
After Ernie Egloff's passing in January, Wilson-White decided to pay tribute to the retired science teacher by spearheading a community effort to continue the beloved garden the Egloff family has maintained in the Carbon area since the 1800s. For several years, Shane Wilson-White, a 1991 Northview High School graduate, has lived next door to Ernie and Mary Egloff.
While living only a door away, Wilson-White along with her husband and two children, would see the couple working in the garden.
"We always looked for Ernie's blue garden hat," Wilson-White said. "I always spent time in the garden with them. They're like family to me. I was always close to them."
After deciding the community garden might be a good idea, Wilson-White approached Mary about the idea before moving forward.
"She said he would love that," Wilson-White said.
Then, she began contacting Egloff family friends to rally support.
Wilson-Whites idea was that all community members who gave to the garden could also take its fruits after yields became ripe.
A crew of community members assembled to plant in the 30 by 50 foot lot Saturday, June 4. On plant day, there were more than 12 children helping with the garden.
"This garden has definitely been a learning experience for us all," Wilson-White said. "The children had so much fun pulling those potatoes out of the ground with so much excitement. You would think it was Christmas morning."
Ernie's brother, Pat Egloff, purchased several seedlings for the garden, and the Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority donated a recycled rainwater barrel for the garden as well.
As summer progressed, so did the crop yields from the garden as a result of many individuals contributing to the memorial garden.
Martha Knox, Wilson-White's daughter's fifth-grade teacher, donated tomato plants, and total strangers followed suit with 14 more.
Zeb Mullinix, who grew up with Ernie and Pat, and Jason Britton, helped by making stakes and hammering them into the ground to mark off the rows the day before plant day.
"My heart smiles when I look at the pictures of Mullinix, who is 87, sitting next to Britton, age 11, as Zeb teaches Nick how to cut a potato for planting, both of them smiling and learning from one another," Wilson-White explained. "The trans-generational gap was amazing. The children learned so much from the adults, but the kids also taught the adults." Wilson-White also mentioned many others who contributed. She said John Williams, who owns Williams Lawn and Tractor Repair, gave healthy plants and tons of red worms to help start a worm farm for the garden's health. Jack and Joanie Mitchell donated flowers. According to Wilson-White, Jenna Smith from the Purdue Extension Office provided information about soil testing and planting tips, assisting however she could. In addition, Jim Richardson tilled the garden many times, while his wife Darla donated plants, including gourmet yellow pear tomatoes.
"Without Jim's help, we wouldn't have had such a wonderful, weed-free, soft garden to begin with," Wilson-White said. "It made a huge difference."
Pat continued to make the weeding easier by tilling in between rows, and Molly and Sherwin Williams donated the paint and painting supplies to assist in making the wooden "Ernie's Garden" sign.
Meanwhile, Bob Roloff made the PVC sign holder at supply cost.
"He did a knock-out job," Wilson-White said. "It looks wonderful."
With a monetary donation from JoAnn Rightsell, Ernie's childhood friend and Dr. Greg Doll, Wilson-White purchased more plants and supplies. Wilson-White's high school pupil, Mary Warren Schultz bought canning jars so garden patrons could preserve the garden foods, and Schultz had them delivered to Wilson-White's home.
"What a blessing this has been. I've been making all kinds of relish, spicy pickles, bruschetta sauce, spaghetti sauce, jelly, marmalade ... you name it," Wilson-White told The Brazil Times. "I'm having a blast creating things to enjoy during the dreadful winter months." With the help from all the contributions, the garden's yield included potatoes, cherry tomatoes, popcorn, sweet corn, two kinds of green beans, three varieties of hot peppers, pumpkins, watermelons, cucumber, radish, turnips, lettuce and bell peppers.
Wilson-White said there were only two problems that arose while working on the project.
She said she didn't think many contributors felt comfortable taking from the garden they gave to, and there wasn't a set organized schedule mandating who would take care of the garden from week to week.
She credited Kris Johnston and her three daughters, Annie, Kennedy and Alexandria for helping out a lot.
"My hope is that people will come back next year and the garden gets bigger," Wilson-White said. Mary Egloff said the garden has meant a lot to her.
"Shane just worked like a little trooper to get people to participate," Mary said.
"I was really impressed with their efforts, and it's a wonderful tribute to my husband and a great success."
For more information regarding Ernie's Garden, call Wilson-White at 812-243-0799 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.