Niles native Irene Leamon shows off a cluster of pecan husks growing on a tree near her home. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

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Niles woman waits 15 years for first pecan

Published 5:04pm Thursday, August 23, 2012

When growing pecans in Michigan, the biggest key is patience.

Just ask 83-year-old Irene Leamon, who waited 15 years to see one of the six pecan trees on her Dick Street property bear fruit.

The Niles native saw the first cluster of pecans, still in their outer husks, last week during a rainstorm.

“I thought, ‘oh, I’ve got pecans,’” Leamon said. “When it quit raining I went out and looked and sure enough there were nuts there.”

Leamon started growing her first pecan tree from seed some 15 years ago.

She and her husband, Robert, got the seed in Oklahoma while making one of their yearly visits to Irene’s lifelong friend Doris Monks. Both graduated from Niles High School in 1946 and both shared a deep love for the pecan.

“It’s our favorite nut,” Irene said.

When pecans are ripe, Irene said, the outer shell cracks open and the pecan falls to the ground. While in Oklahoma, Irene and Monks spent most mornings picking up pecans from the ground.

“We’d bring home enough pecans to eat for a year,” Irene said.

When Irene decided to grow her own pecan tree in Michigan, she said most people told her it couldn’t be done in this climate.

Irene tried anyway, and with the aid of Monks’ growing advice, the tree finally produced fruit this year.

All that remains is waiting for the nut to ripen.

“I’m just glad the good Lord let me live long enough to see a pecan on my own tree,” Irene said.

Unfortunately, Irene couldn’t share the moment with Monks, who passed away around three years ago.

“She’d have been tickled to see it,” Irene said. “Every time I see a tree I can think of Doris and how we used to go up and down the street picking pecans.”

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