In 1999, when Brookfield officials dedicated the Kesman Memorial Garden in Jaycee/Ehlert Park, Barbara Weyrick couldn’t have been happier.
The garden was a living memorial to her late parents, Martha and Tony Kesman, longtime south side residents who loved Ehlert Park. Weyrick’s donation of $10,000 was the seed money for the circular garden, which was laid out near the Korean War memorial in the park.
Brick pavers bordered the plants, which included many hostas from the Kesmans’ own home garden.
Last week, however, Weyrick told village officials she was “ashamed” of the way Brookfield has ignored the garden.
“I’m really upset how the Kesman Memorial Garden has been treated for the last 10 years,” said Weyrick, now a resident of Countryside and the assessor for the Township of Lyons. “I was livid.”
Weyrick said that she had last visited the garden about a year ago. On Aug. 5, Weyrick took her grandchild to see how the garden was faring.
“And I was ashamed,” she said.
“The hostas were gone, the beautiful plaque that [Trustee] Cathy [Colgrass Edwards] and I worked on is gone. There was nothing there but dirt.”
Since that time the garden has been spruced up somewhat, courtesy of Village Trustee David LeClere and his wife, but it’s not the same garden Weyrick dedicated a decade ago.
“I expected it to be forever-lasting,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be me maintaining it. I gave money to the village.”
Village President Michael Garvey apologized for the state of the garden and suggested that someone stole the hostas from the garden. The plaque had been damaged by vandals some time earlier. After Weyrick complained about the garden’s condition two weeks ago, the Department of Public Works had a replacement plaque made and installed it at the garden site.
“We offer our sincere apology,” Garvey told Weyrick at the village’s committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 10. “Now it will get the attention it should have gotten.”
Exactly what happened to the plants formerly in the garden is unclear. Public Works Superintendent Al Kitzer, however, doubts they were stolen.
“I think the plants did not survive,” he said. “It’s a very open, hot area there. We lose a lot of plants to heat stress every year. We do our best to keep the foliage alive.”
The Brookfield Jaycees applied in 2003 to take on the Kesman Garden for the village’s Adopt-A-Spot program, and members of that group last worked on the garden in the spring, according to Nicole Gilhooley, chairwoman of the Brookfield Beautification Commission, which oversees the Adopt-A-Spot program.
But the extent of Adopt-A-Spot efforts is pulling weeds and general cleanup. Watering, mulching and planting is left to the village. Throughout the years, Weyrick said she also planted hostas from her own garden to replace ones that disappeared.
There’s no water source close to the garden, which may have contributed to the demise of the plants.
While the members of the Beautification Committee try to monitor the Adopt-A-Spot locations, it’s tough to do a comprehensive check regularly, since there are 50 such locations in the village, Gilhooley said.
However, Gilhooley said that the garden will be put on the project list for the fall Project NICE cleanup effort by the committee, and that Weyrick will get an invite to that event as well.
As for new plantings, Gilhooley said that her recommendation would be that the village go with more native plants that can survive without needing so much water.
“We’re going to resolve it,” Gilhooley said. “That’s the bottom line.”