Niles Garden Club recalls 70 years

Published 12:19 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Members of the Niles Garden Club, who celebrated the club's 70th anniversary at the Niles District Library Tuesday, might not be wearing hats and gloves to their meetings anymore.
But apart from that, a garden club member said, having looked through some of the old leather-bound, handwritten books and minutes from meetings in the past, she has come to a realization.
Old and new books depicting the garden club's 70-year history were on display in the library basement room hosting the celebration, and members could walk around and see what it was like to be a garden club member in the early days.
The celebration also gave club members a chance to share stories from the past, discussing what to do in the garden this spring and summer, as well as tasting the cakes and coffee brought in for the occasion.
Nancy Daugherty, chair of the garden club's Christmas Green Sale, which is one of the club's major fund-raising events each year, was glad to celebrate the club's 70th anniversary with fellow members.
Naomi Szot, current garden club historian, said when the club was started in 1933, it had 20 members and the annual member fee was 15 cents.
Today the club has 49 members between the age of 49 and 101 years old (Lucy Zimmer Morse is the club's oldest member), and the annual fee is $15.
Szot said the club in recent years has been, and still is, involved with many special projects, such as doing the floral design at the new library in Niles, planting planters at city hall and maintaining the "Welcome to Niles" sign on South 11th Street.
And in addition to having a major plant sale on May 17, usually held in the courtyard of Fort St. Joseph Museum, the club has adopted a highway out past Ballard where they have planted tulips, she said.
Community beautification, however, is not the only thing on the garden club members minds.
Lyn Butus, a Niles Garden Club member, who is also district three director of 40 gardening clubs that are members of the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan, said the Niles Gardening club will award two $1,000 horticultural scholarships to Niles and Brandywine High School students this year.
The club also supports a Higgins Lake summer camp for teachers, 4-H leaders and others who work with children, she said.
With a club celebrating its 70th anniversary, however, some members will remember more than others just because they have lived longer.
Irma Hershey, one of the club's many lifetime members, said in the past you would never wear slacks to a garden club meeting.
Hershey, however, said the garden club has always been a club where club members have worked in their own gardens.
And whenever the garden club was involved with a big project, they would ask their husbands to come and help them.
With spring right around the corner, the club members will probably be out in their own gardens getting things ready soon.