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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

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Surrounded by poppies, lilies, columbine, and more, Ron and Gretchen Noon enjoy their garden time and hope it brings joy to those who pass by their yard on Mohawk Street in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
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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.

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Each way you look you'll find butterflies and dragonflies in the yard of Ron and Gretchen Noon in southwest Wadena. The metal art reminds them of their children Bria and Ben. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

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"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.

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While not all flowers have popped, the ones that have are abundant in the Noon flower garden. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

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.

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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.

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A caterpillar clings to the underside of a milkweed plant at the Noon garden. The Noons try to keep milkweed abundant in their garden to attract butterflies each year. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

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.

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A favorite of their son Ben Noon, who died in a car crash in 2001, these Johnny Jump Ups thrive in remembrance of his life. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

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.

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Ron and Gretchen Noon stand by the "Yard of the Month" sign, indicating they were chosen to be honored for the month July 2021. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

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A lovely front porch is an inviting spot to overlook the yard and garden spaces at the home of Gretchen and Ron Noon in southwest Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDENWADENA
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