At 81 years old, Bob Lehman isn’t willing to rest on laurels earned during his long life. There’s too much more to do.
Take the garden, for instance. Resting in a strip of formerly weed-ridden property at the Fulton County Health Center Wellness Center in Wauseon, the eye-catching display is the product of Lehman’s perseverance and desire to give back to the community. Thanks to his deft green thumb, about 120 yellow and orange marigolds, zinnias, firecracker plants, and silver sleeves now pop with color at the location.
“It was hard work, but it was worth every bit of it,” Lehman said. “It was about giving back. It’s who I am. I’ve had a blessed life.”
The labor of love was the Delta resident’s idea to spruce up the outside of the Wellness Center at 138 E. Elm St. During his regular exercise session at the facility, he overheard Sharon Morr, FCHC director of corporate and community health promotion, say the exterior property could use some pizzazz.
“I jumped on it right away,” he said.
A volunteer at both FCHC and the Fulton County Senior Center, Lehman took Morr shopping for flowers, which she said he insisted on donating to the project. After a brief consultation regarding the layout, he got to work preparing the soil and planting the flowers in the neglected patch in front of the building.
“We didn’t know what to really expect. It was kind of an experimental thing. It’s one of the more visible places in Wauseon because so many people use that street. It was a pride thing with the Wellness Center. We wanted to be a good neighbor.”
He spent three days creating the garden through a bout of hot weather, accepting bottles of water and wondering at times whether he’d bitten off too much for someone his age.
“But I’m in great health,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m busier than I need, but I try to keep a balance of it. To maintain one’s health, you have to keep going. I wake up every morning with a purpose.”
Lehman tends to the garden daily, weeding and watering and feeding it plant food. He worried it might not be respected in such a high-traffic area, but his fears proved groundless.
“The neighbors are outstanding. They’re very appreciative. The whole thing gives you confidence in people,” he said.
Morr said she had wanted to beautify the property but she and the Wellness Center staff simply didn’t have the time.
“One day, Bob said, ‘Let’s go get some flowers,’” she said. “He’s very active and he’s in good shape. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t do things. As it turned out, it looks nice. People comment on it daily.”
Lehman’s a take-charge kind of person, Morr said. “Before I knew it, they were all planted. He takes a lot of pride in it, and he takes pleasure in it. It’s his baby.”
The staff at the Wellness Center has enjoyed watching the garden grow, Lehman said. The project is also important to him as an environmental statement, a pollinating haven for bees which in recent years have suffered catastrophic losses due to man-made chemicals.
Married 62 years to his wife, Lenora, Lehman said they grew up in an era where people looked out for and cared for one another.
“She’s very proud that we’re able to give back,” he said. “We get up in the morning and enjoy every portion of every day, and enhance as many lives as we can. Doing this garden has been a healthy part of it. I’ve never been healthier or happier in my life.”
Lehman said the garden has been a special project for him from the beginning.
“I’ll do it again next year,” he added. “I benefited as much from this as anyone.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.