This Minnesota yard is filled with beautiful memories
Ron and Gretchen Noon honor their late son who died after a three-car crash near Alexandria
WADENA, Minn. — Every day before heading out the door, Gretchen Noon pins a dragonfly pendant to her shirt.
Her sparkling collection of dragonflies large and small spill out into the yard and garden she and her husband, Ron, have grown from scratch over the last 30 years in southwest Wadena. The dragonfly is a daily reminder of the couple's son Ben, who died 20 years ago this month in a horrible three-vehicle crash caused by an inattentive driver near Alexandria.
It was during Ben's funeral that a dragonfly happened to come buzzing by and Gretchen took it as a sign of her son. From there it's become an addition that lights up the Noon's yard, garden and life.
"A flower garden, if it can bring joy to someone, that's my main goal is just the enjoyment of it."
- Gretchen Noon
There's more to the Noons' yard that catches your eye. Over the years the couple has filled the 2.5-acre space with over 100 trees. Many are planted in memory of loved ones, many still living. A majestic northwoods maple was planted by the city of Wadena in honor of Ben, who worked at the city for a season. There's also apple trees, spruce, sugar maple (Gretchen's favorite), lilacs and more. A garden shed built by the Wadena-Deer Creek High School students is painted like a barn in remembrance of the farm Ron came from.
"It's been a work in progress," Ron said. "She's the creative one, and I'm the hired labor."
The Noons' yard includes a lot across the road, where their large flower garden keeps expanding. The garden is packed with a kaleidoscope of colors this time of year as many plants are in bloom. Gretchen said she wished the lilies had been in bloom when a recent group from the Wadena Garden Club stopped by. They were there to present the Noons with the Wadena Yard of the Month honor for July. There was no shortage of beauty to be seen.
While they get a lot of joy and peace working in the garden, it's their hope that others passing by can find it uplifting as well.
"A flower garden, if it can bring joy to someone, that's my main goal is just the enjoyment of it," Gretchen said.
With an expansive array of blooms, the garden changes each day.
"Oh yeah, that just opened up today," Gretchen said as Ron pointed out a pot filled with yellow day lilies.
The couple's other child Bria, who is planning to be married in a year, is remembered throughout the space by butterflies. They make sure to keep an abundance of milkweed growing throughout the space with hopes that monarchs will continue to migrate here and stay a while. They recently noticed several caterpillars feasting on the plants in preparation for their transformation.
Bria continues the growing of miniature irises that Gretchen's great grandmother grew in Germany. The flowers have been passed on now over five generations from that humble patch overseas. With the extreme heat and dry weather, the couple have been watering daily to preserve the investment of plants.
The flower garden includes black-eyed Susans, which Gretchen has renamed brown-eyed Brias in her daughter's name. A large growth of Johnny Jump Ups is another reminder of Ben, who used to always pick them for mom. She calls them Benji Jump Ups.
The Noons went to high school together in Cottonwood, Minn., (near Granite Falls) and married there. They moved to Wadena in 1987 when Ron took a job on the Wadena Police Department. He retired from that job nine years ago and started a mobile MRI business seven years ago. He works a few days a week. Gretchen meanwhile has worked as a dental assistant, as a special education paraprofessional and most recently works at Oma's Bakery and Restaurant in Wadena.
"It's just peaceful out here," Ron said. The couple spends a lot of time together tending to this space and sitting together enjoying everything it produces.