Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Keeping Norma Stark's memory alive in Perrysburg


Jim Stark walks across the labyrinth in the garden of his late wife, Norma Stark, in Perrysburg The garden was built for meditation, in memory of Norma's parents, Norman and Anna Belle Swaisgood. Norma died in 2011. The garden is maintained by the Norma Stark Memory Garden and Labyrinth Foundation. Jim lives at the home.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Name: The Norma Stark Memory Garden and Labyrinth Foundation, 345 W. South Boundary St., Perrysburg. Open to the public, this is the fulfillment of a dream of the late Norma Stark, a music educator and Master Gardener. Jim Stark, Norma's widower, resides in the home and the wheelchair-accessible garden is in the back yard. The public is invited to a celebration of Norma's birthday at 1 p.m. July 12, for a 45-minute program of music, liturgical dance, a garden tour, and an explanation of how to walk a labyrinth. A mailbox on the patio, just inside the gate and to the right, holds information. Appointments are not necessary but groups may arrange for a tour. Contact: www.normastarklabyrinth.com and 419-874-8838.

Garden specs: About ½ acre.

The garden's start: This exquisite space was built by Norma Stark in 2007 in memory of her parents, Norman and Anna Belle Swaisgood. Her intention was to make a peaceful sanctuary where people could silently walk the circular pattern of the brick labyrinth, 33½ feet in diameter. It's patterned after a 13th-century labyrinth in France's Chartes Cathedral. In dappled shade, the labyrinth is surrounded by trees, bushes, fountains, benches, and flowers. Groups of all kinds visit the garden and two weddings have been performed here.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view

Norma died from complications of lymphoma in 2011 at age 62. In her will, she stipulated that the garden be public and she provided some funds to maintain it. Three friends with whom she'd taught, Alice Buehrle, Kathy Kasprzak, and Lorraine Caserta, pitched in, tackling chores and forming a seven-member board to oversee the place. Little by little, they say they're learning what she knew, guided by her meticulous landscaping records. Ms. Buehrle plans to become a labyrinth facilitator.

What is grown: Perennials (lyropia, ferns, hostas, lenten roses, daylilies), grasses (maiden, blue oat, and striped), shrubbery (My Monet weigela, witch hazel, hydrangeas, Yukon Belle pyracantha, spireas), and trees (weeping hemlock, varieties of Japanese maples, beech). At one side is a small zen garden with tools for drawing in its sand.

A favorite plant: Norma loved the unusual, such as Harry Lauder's walking stick, a shrub. In memory of her mother, she planted an Annabelle hydrangea, and red roses for her father. Give us a tip: As Norma always said, "Prune a plant so that it looks natural." Be ready to move and change things as the garden matures.

Hours spent: Board members spend 40 to 60 hours a week in spring, and about 20 hours in the summer. Additional friends help with fall cleanup.

Annual expense: We're a nonprofit organization, supported by donations. There are no salaries. For landscaping, mulching, and tree pruning that's beyond what the volunteers are able to do, legal fees, insurance, new plants, utilities, and ongoing maintenance such as a new water line and cleaning/sealing the labyrinth, annual cost may be $12,000 to $15,000.

The challenges: Keeping alive the vision of our beautiful and giving friend, Norma.

What are you proud of: We're proud of ensuring the garden remains open for people to enjoy. Our mission is to promote and maintain it as a sanctuary for peace, prayer, meditation, and healing.

What do you get out of caring for this garden? Norma was inspirational and spiritual; very giving, always positive, energetic, and compassionate. She remembered people's names and saw the best in everyone. This place keeps her spirit alive.

For a previous story about her labyrinth garden, go to http://bit.ly/10IdB1o.

Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com.

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