It was nearly a dozen years ago that I was asked to come down to The La Porte County Herald-Argus to speak about an upcoming Earth Day/Green Living feature that they had planned and were interested in writing about my farm H&H Flowers/Sunkissed Organics.

We were in the process of transitioning from only growing Chrysanthemums to branching out and growing flowering shrubs, perennials and heirloom vegetable plants.

When I came down to the newspaper office, I wasn’t sure what to expect so I wandered over one day and met Lisa Mayes. Up until that day, anytime I was asked to give a quote or offer up information it was always met by the mindset of the person doing the asking just trying to accomplish their task which was to write an article on whatever topic.

Meeting Lisa was different. She had an interest in gardening and the outdoors already and was pretty experienced herself.

Since she was so easy to talk to, I figured I might as well bring up the topic of how The Herald-Argus at one point would feature an area farmer and do a sort of “Life of a farmer” column that would help people to learn more about the work that goes into any type of growing. By some miracle she was interested and managed to get me my own weekly column writing about my farm.

The Earth Day/Green Living feature was published and was read by more people than I know. I still have a copy for both of my daughters at home. It was written so beautifully and represented all that our small farm was all about. It was all about growing the natural way, which is both being sustainable as well as not using man made chemicals.

Over the years of course, that has expanded to anything nature or gardening related and most times seems to be more on the entertaining side since I have incorporated in livestock which never behaves as you would hope and there is always something troublesome brewing.

Every week I would send my articles to Lisa and she would edit and proofread them for me and offer suggestions which have helped to sculpt me into a much better writer.

No matter what topic I chose, Lisa would already be interested as soon as it was sent her way and would follow up by sending me links to more information that she thought I would find interesting.

She was the most amazing mentor that I could have ever had and was always patient and kind. Over the years Lisa had switched positions and newspapers and I have since worked with other editors. And while all of them have been great, no one compares to Lisa who always had a sincere interest in all that I did. She would always instil in me how proud she was of everything that I did and wrote.

On Wednesday I learned that Lisa has passed away after battling cancer, and it was then when I realized what a wonderful soul that we have lost, yet the angels have gained. She always had a light about her that was something that would draw you in and make you want to listen to her for hours. Most of all, I appreciate everything that she has done for me over the years and in helping me get my start.

As of this year I have written for The Herald-Argus for close to a dozen years. Because of this exposure I have been a presenter/speaker multiple times at the Chicago Botanic Gardens (in their sustainable farmer series), as well as the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. Not to mention the countless places in our community that I have presented. I absolutely love my twice a year talks at Luhr Park for their Senior Living group — which are another great group of folks.

With the writing skills I am still fine tuning, but had immense help with, I was able to ghostwrite my good friend Sunny Akhigbe’s memoir, "A Boy and His Dream," which he has since turned into a foundation that has helped thousands of children around the world.

It seems fitting that as I write this, I have been working on planning my presentation for the Master Gardener’s Spring Garden Show that will have passed by time of publish. I chose “Gardening the Natural Way” without realizing how everything would tie in together and that somehow it would bring me right back to the beginning of all of this.

While struggling with what I am going to cover, I now realize that everything will work out and that hopefully I will remember everything that Lisa had taught me over the years and be able to incorporate that in with my own gardening adventures. And most of all, I hope to continue to make Lisa proud of what she helped to create.


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