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A place to reflect: Dyer adds sensory garden to Gold Star Family Memorial

Oct 21 2023
Molly DeVore |

DYER — Peppermint plants and lambs ear poked up between the dark mulch.

The freshly-planted garden at Dyer’s Central Park is designed to activate the senses. Chives, lavender, coneflowers, St. John’s wort and more fill the circular plot. At the center sits a recently-installed Gold Star Family Memorial Monument.

The town celebrated the addition of the sensory garden Friday. The garden was installed by the Dyer in Bloom beautification group with help from a $25,000 grant from Canadian National Railway, money that was administered by the national America in Bloom organization.

Nanette Wargo, president of the Dyer Park Board and a Dyer in Bloom member, said the front of the garden was planted with golden flowers to honor the gold star families, the sides feature flowers that are red, white and blue and the back is where the herb garden and butterfly garden will be. Many of the plants in the butterfly garden, things like beebalm and golden rod, will be planted this spring.

Dyer in Bloom members are in the process of decorating rocks with the name and a painting of each plant. Sometime next week, the town will install a 30-foot American flag and in the next few weeks four benches will be added to the garden.

This spring the town plans on adding a second memorial that features the names of nine Dyer soldiers who were killed in battler. Dyer in Bloom is currently fundraising for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard flags that will be installed next to the newly-planted trees. Wargo said some 19 trees were planted around the garden, the trees included river birches, white oaks, service berry trees and more.

The Gold Star Family Memorial Monument was installed Sept. 16 to honor Army Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk, a Dyer resident who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2012. The Nowaczyk family fundraised for years and were ultimately able to purchase a black granite Gold Star monument and a bronze-coated statue that depicts a a soldier standing behind a young girl; the girl represents David’s daughter Kiley. The statue is located at Pheasant Hills Park.

Dyer in Bloom was inspired to plant a sensory garden because they wanted to give residents a space to reflect after visiting the memorial. Eventually, a fountain will be added to a nearby retention pond, completing the area’s calming ambiance.

Marvin Miller, chair of the American in Bloom Grant Review Committee, said his organization works to promote beautification because the groups recognizes the “power of plants.” Vegetations improves the environment, can help encourage tourism and shopping and can even impact people’s overall psychological wellbeing.

“Certainly in a garden like this, plants will help comfort people when they come and visit the memorial,” Miller said.

Dyer has been an America in Bloom member community since 2015; in 2017 the town officially formed Dyer in Bloom, which then joined the Parks Department in 2022. The group maintains a number of flower beds throughout Dyer. This year Dyer in Bloom also encouraged residential beautification efforts, giving out awards to the best-looking yards in town.

America in Bloom was really started in Europe because every town you go into has a war memorial. Instead of being down-trodden, they went out and planted flowers and that’s where that whole idea began. It’s so nice that now we have it here,” Town Council President and Dyer in Bloom member Mary Tanis said. “We’re working together to make Dyer more beautiful than ever.”