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Keeper of the Flowers

By Staff | Jul 29, 2020

Jon Stearns with his lawn tractor and water wand as he cares for the Downtown Main Street Flower Baskets

Let me begin by saying I enjoy flowers. Flowers offer their beauty and pleasant scent for free to those who will simply take the time to, “smell the flowers.” But the particular flowers I am going to tell you about today would pose a problem for anyone wanting to sniff the colorful baskets of flowers. You see, the fact is they are nearly a dozen feet above Main Street.

It would be hard for me to believe that anyone who has been downtown in New Martinsville has not seen the beautiful baskets of flowers that hang from the town’s street lights. Each of the downtown lights support two baskets full of colorful flowers.

I imagine few people have given much thought to the flowers or how they manage to remain so vibrant during these hot dry summer months. I know from personal experience hanging baskets need lots of care and water on a regular basis in order to remain alive and full of flowers. For the most part that is my job around our house. You see, we have ten baskets that need tending on a regular basis. I don’t necessarily have a schedule, but Mary reminds me when I need to water the plants. I will have to admit I sometimes grumble about the tedious task of watering ten hanging baskets. Why, it must take me all of six or seven minutes to complete that laborious task. But I will have to admit I enjoy seeing the flowers that hang from our porch. Mary and I try to maintain the flowers as long as we can into the fall to stretch the memories of summer just a little longer.

Last weekend, I was downtown and I saw a man slowly making his way along the street driving a lawn tractor. Behind his tractor was a cart that contained a water tank. At each lighting post along the street, the man stopped his lawn tractor. He then removed his extended watering wand and proceeded to water each flower basket that hung from the post. He seemed to know just how much water to add to each basket. He repeated this twice as there are two flower baskets on each post. As I watched the man go about his task, I never saw an excess water spill over from the flowers. He seemed to know just how long to add water to the basket. I wondered why no excess of water spilled out of the bottom. When I water my flowers, the water seems to almost run straight through and spill out. Carefully the man watched as he added water and at the correct time he stopped and replaced his long watering wand and moved on to the next group of flowers. I realized this was a task he had performed many times before and he knew by the waters sound or a count in his head when he had added enough water.

Early in the day, I saw that same man working at Witscheys. I decided to ask him about his second job watering Main Streets flowers. He explained that later in the afternoon he would be downtown doing his job and he would tell me about it then. I was curious about the man and his job, I knew I wanted to hear the story of the Keeper of the Main Street’s flowers. So, that afternoon as the sun beat down on a 93 degree day I made a trip downtown. On a nearly deserted Main Street, I saw Jon going about his rounds of watering Main Streets flowers.

As he continued to work he told me his name is Jon Stearns. I asked how many flower baskets he waters during his rounds. He thought for a moment before explaining there were forty-four baskets of flowers that he cared for. He went on to say that he usually spends about three hours watering the flowers. He began this season’s task in late spring and it will continue tending the flowers until about mid-September. Jon explained that he makes his downtown rounds about every three days. Sometimes weather conditions require him to make his rounds sooner or maybe a little later.

Wanting to know a little more about his endeavor, I contacted Holly Morgan who is a member of the museum’s board of directors and ask about the Main Street Project. She explained the flower baskets were prepared by the Hannibal Garden Center. Each basket is special in that it has a one gallon water reservoir making it easier to maintain in dry conditions.

When we talked, Jon pointed out each basket was self-feeding which helped to keep them healthy. The flowers are part of the Wetzel County Convention and Visitors Bureau efforts to add beautification to Main Street. Holly also told me that Jon Stearns, the man who cares for the flower baskets, also works for the Wetzel County CVB.

Holly explained that if I were to look on some light posts, I would see memorial plaques attached to them. She described how people can donate $75 to the Main Street beautification project and have their loved ones name inscribed on the plaque. The following are in memory of the flower basket project. Mary Ann Potts, Peggy Jenkins, Selma Morgan, Alice Cecil, Jeanne Jennings, Ethel Meyers, Paula Oiler Dankmer, Betty Wilt Santore, Kathy Estep, Nonnie Anderson, Naoma Jones, Myrta McDaniel Calvert, Anna Jean Estep, Patricia “Pat” Bonyak RN CDE, Sue Rothlisberger, David and Naoma Jones, Dick Lehew, Jane Ripley, Fred and Mary Jo Burton and John and Alma Zumpetta. People can still send their family members name, their name and $75 to 136 Main Street New Martinsville, WV 26155 sponsor the basket and permanent plaque on the poles.

The next time you are downtown, take a few minutes to enjoy the flowers that decorate Main Street courtesy of the CVB. Those flowers will remind you that summertime in our community is a time of colorful flowers and warm sunshine. And maybe, if you’re lucky you will see Jon going about his task of keeping those flowers beautiful just for you. If you have a moment stop and say hello to Jon, from a social distance and thank him for his labors. Then you can consider yourself lucky that you met a very dedicated man whom I will remember as, “The Keeper of Main Street Flowers” as I looked Through the Lens.