May 9—A Jeannette man who converted a vacant lot into a flower garden in memory of his mother-in-law has seen the serene setting grow in use by others who have lost a loved one.
"I never imagined that it would have grown so much," Albert Herman, 63, a retired Jeannette Glass Co. worker, said of the garden featuring a bench at the corner of North Third Street and Grandview Street in Jeannette.
Herman started working on Mom's Garden in October, shortly after his mother-in-law, Shirley Eakin, 84, of Jeannette, died Sept. 24. He is married to Shirley's daughter, Kelley Eakin Herman.
"She was really close to her mother," Herman said.
"It's a nice gesture," Kelley Herman said of the memory garden.
She said her mother liked flowers. Herman said he has a passion for gardening, so it seemed appropriate.
On what will be her first Mother's Day without her mother, Herman said he intends to walk to the garden from their nearby home today.
The site is on a piece of property owned by Rup J. Goswami of Forest Hills, N.Y., who purchased it in 2008, according to Westmoreland County Recorder of Deeds filings. The nearly half-acre lot was strewn with debris, Herman said. The property slopes down into a gully, where trash, chunks of concrete, grass clippings and leaves have been dumped.
Herman began clearing the corner property, removing glass, tree branches and weeds, in the fall. To make the ground suitable for plants, Herman said he spread topsoil on the area, sometimes pushing a wheelbarrow filled with dirt down North Third Street.
He planted mostly perennials he dug up from his own garden and his mother's house, as well as wild flowers he found. Rocks in the garden were "borrowed" from neighbor Josephine Avolio's yard, Herman said.
The garden has a bench where visitors can sit and reflect, Herman said. A blue bird box already has a resident.
He has a "Phipps Conservatory" of flowers and plants, ranging from elderberries, strawberries, holly, black-eyed Susans, rhododendron, blood grass, Russian sage, Johnny jump-ups and even flowers from Alaska.
He has installed a rain barrel so he does not have to haul water.
Kelley Herman said her husband distributed flyers in the neighborhood after preparing the site, inviting residents to plant flowers in memory of their loved ones on April 11, her mother's birthday.
Some local families already have planted flowers in memory of loved ones, veterans and those who have battled breast cancer, Albert Herman said.
"We've had a lot of neighbors plant flowers," he said.
"It continues to grow."
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .