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Garden revival includes sendoff for longtime volunteer

An official changing of the guard has occurred at Hennessy School in Grass Valley, where an old garden has been revived as an educational and nutritional tool.

Last year, the group Live Healthy Nevada County revived the small garden that had suffered neglect for several years, as declining school funding cut back the budget for a teacher and the extracurricular program that tended the plot.

At a recent ceremony, Live Healthy members joined past and present Hennessy teachers and staff to celebrate the garden’s revival and to honor Fred Hargesheimer.



The 93-year-old spent many years caring for the garden in volunteer service to the school.

Many Nevada County residents know Hargesheimer as the pilot who was shot down over New Guinea by the Japanese during World War II. He returned to the island after the war and started a school as a thank-you for the people of New Guinea, who hid him from enemy soldiers and saved his life.




Hargesheimer had to stop volunteering several years ago at Hennessy School when his health began failing. He recently moved to an assisted-living program.

“When I saw what a job they had done with the garden, I wanted Fred to see it, because he spent so much time there,” said former Hennessy Teacher Grace Dolan.

She started the garden in 1986 and watched Hargesheimer take it under his wing.

“He would get his friends to work on it,” Dolan said, and he donated his own money to keep it going.

Now that the garden is thriving again, Dolan and fellow retired Hennessy teacher Wanda Baggett are writing grants to keep it growing and to pay a part-time instructor. Dolan figures that position would cost about $6,000 per year.

First-grade teacher Brenda Kerksieck said the garden has always been an asset for the school, but an instructor makes it a fun educational tool.

“They learn where their food comes from and how important it is to take care of Earth,” Kerksieck said.

“It’s a chance for kids to get access to fresh foods or school grounds,” added Live Healthy member Aimee Retzler, who helped rebuild the garden mostly with funds from the University of California Cooperative Extension.

“The school won’t be in a position to fund a program like this,” Retzler said. Yet, “it’s an outdoor classroom.”

The garden’s rebirth may be the start of an area-wide movement.

“We want to take what we’ve done at Hennessy and try to add it at other schools without costing them money,” Retzler said.

To contribute, call Retzler at (415) 265-8447, or e-mail to aimeeretzler@yahoo.com.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com, or call (530) 477-4237.


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