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ALTON - Laura Dixon Wallendorf is no stranger to community gardens. But her latest gardening project is the most special one yet.

The new garden, located at the corner of 67th and Henry Streets in Alton, is for Wallendorf’s nephew Anthony, who passed away in a car accident seven months ago. Wallendorf and her sister Sara Geisen have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from the community, including donations from Home Depot, to make the garden into the beautiful spot it is today.

“Anthony used to work at Home Depot and they volunteered right away,” Wallendorf said. “I had a whole group of four people come down and help me on the garden, and they donated quite a bit of flowers and plants. It was incredible. It really was.”

This giving spirit was in Anthony’s nature, his mother, Geisen, said. Since his passing, one of his coworkers from Home Depot reached out to Geisen and shared that Anthony helped him through a difficult time. Almost 1,000 people attended Anthony’s funeral, many of whom had stories about how Anthony touched their lives.

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It’s fitting, then, that they have created this tribute to Anthony in Alton. Wallendorf and Geisen are proud of the garden they planted, and they plan to add more flowers and color soon. They also hope to install a water spigot; in the meantime, Geisen brings 15 jugs of water down to the garden every other day to water it.

“Going down there to water those flowers at 7:30, 8 in the morning, it’s healing for me. It really means a lot to me,” Geisen explained. “Anthony was our baby. He’s the youngest of six sons. And so he was very special to us and to his brothers…He just had a heart of gold.”

Geisen and her husband also hope to establish a scholarship in Anthony’s name at Marquette Catholic High School. According to his mother, Anthony had a strong faith and very much enjoyed his time at Marquette. They are still hammering out the details, but they plan to host an event in his honor soon to raise funds for the scholarship.

Wallendorf and Geisen thanked John Simmons, who owns the property where the garden is, and his assistant Jim Howard for allowing them to plant the garden. They both believe they can feel Anthony's presence when they are in the garden, and it has become a special place of remembrance for the family. They are thankful for the support they have received from the community since Anthony’s passing.

“It’s been seven months already and not a day goes by that somebody doesn't reach out and ask how we’re doing,” Geisen said. “It’s been amazing, and I thank Anthony for that.”

If you or a group want to volunteer to help with the garden or the scholarship, you can contact Wallendorf at 618-604-9203.

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