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Barb City Manor residents bond through gardening

DeKALB – When Marcia Forest caught Wes Dvorak looking out the window of Barb City Manor one snowy day this winter, the new resident didn’t know she was about to make a friend.

Forest, 89, approached the wheelchair-bound Dvorak, 91, and realized he was keeping an eye on the garden he tends on the south side of the retirement community’s building. Forest, an avid gardener for 68 years, asked Dvorak if he would like some help when the warmer months came, and the two came to an agreement.

The duo works in the garden nearly every day while Forest digs and Dvorak plants.

The two grow about 25 plants in the garden, including radishes, sweet banana peppers and a variety of tomatoes.

Dvorak can be very particular about the garden, which he created after he moved to the retirement community in 2005.

“One thing I want to emphasize,” he said. “I don’t raise no weeds.”

Dvorak doesn’t let his wheelchair stop him from going out every morning to pull any incoming weeds in the handicapped-accessible garden. Forest isn’t far behind him with a watering can to keep the plants moist.

“It takes work,” she said. “And that’s what we try to do.”

Onlookers and friends like Laura Mabel said they are impressed with how much the pair is able to do given their age and limited abilities.

“One is incapacitated and one is almost 90,” Mabel said. “And here they are doing their hobby.”

But Forest said tending to this garden is no different than any of the others she’s had in the past.

“I’ve had a garden all my life,” she said.

Although she’s hauling water and digging on her hands and knees, Forest said her body rarely gets sore from the process.

With Dvorak’s gardening expertise and Forest’s passion for planting, the pair expects to reap a nice, small harvest later this season. The ripe vegetables go straight to Barb City’s kitchen where the other residents can’t wait to enjoy them.

“Them seniors gob ’em right up,” joked Dvorak.

Forest said she doesn’t blame them.

“There’s nothing like fresh tomatoes,” Forest said. “I can’t wait myself.”

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