Fairground's new addition uses flowers to replace bad memories with beauty

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - A tree carving welcomes veterans and all others into the new addition to the Demonstration Gardens at the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro. Tim Baker fought in a war nobody talks about.

But just like veterans of the better-known conflicts, Baker returned to life in the states after his military service, flooded with memories of war. That's why he took up gardening — to fill his head with flowers, beauty and living things.

Gardening "helps take certain memories away and replace them with good memories," said Baker, of Hillsboro, who enjoys gardening with his wife. "It takes your mind off other things."

Baker created a Veterans Memorial Garden in the demonstration gardens at the Washington County Fair Complex — maintained by OSU Extension Service Master Gardeners and Tualatin Valley Garden Club members — just in time for this year's county fair.

Baker is a veteran of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, which fought in the Dominican Civil War in 1965, a conflict that was dramatically overshadowed by the Vietnam War. NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The demonstration gardens, where the new Veterans Memorial Garden is located, received more than 1,300 visitors opening day of the fair, according to Master Gardener Margery Brunello, who co-coordinating fair activities with fellow Master Gardener Jeannine Rychlik. 

Wanting to thank fellow veterans for their service, Baker took the lead on designing the veterans garden, a flower bed set into raised concrete blocks complete with a fountain and the garden name carved into a tree. The bed is filled with bright red Veterans Honor roses and impatiens colored red, white and dark blue. Baker chose the rose variety for obvious reasons and impatiens because when "you're getting ready to return from service you're impatient to go to college, you're impatient to get a job, you're impatient to start a family," he said.

Knowing this was Baker's first major project as a new Master Gardener, his fellow MGs and club members Dave Russell, Joe Walker, Jerry Anderson, Bill Klug and countless others "were with me every step of the way assisting," Baker said.

The first couple days of the fair, Baker overheard several passersby comment on the garden area and a few veterans thank garden volunteers for the new addition. "A thank-you is nice," he said. "It goes a long way."

Baker, 73, has been gardening a long time and was already a member of the Tualatin Valley Garden Club, but decided to undergo the Master Gardener training this year. "It's a really great group of people," said Baker. Many Master Gardeners and club members are not only garden lovers, but also veterans who can relate to each other. NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Impatiens and Veterans Honor roses fill the memorial garden bed.

The Master Gardener program focuses on educating the public about sustainable and safe gardening methods through free classes, workshops and resources.

"There's nothing finer than teaching someone how to do something you're passionate about," Baker said. "You don't have time for many other thoughts when you're giving."

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