Seaforth and District Horticultural Society honors Dick DeJong

SEAFORD – The Seaforth and District Horticultural Society is honoring a longtime member with a new addition to one of the many gardens it cares for.

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A bench honoring Dick DeJong, who died in 2021, has been placed in the gardens of Northside United Church in Seaforth, surrounded by the handiwork of members of the DeJong community.

In celebration of DeJong, the association officially unveiled the bench during a ceremony on Sept. 13.

The bench is located in a community-maintained park. Dan Rolfe

“With this new seat, we will never forget it,” said Astrid Guntensperger, former president of the association. “He’s always on our minds, and every time we walk by, we know that’s Dick.”

The pew at the west end of the church also includes a plaque that reads “Dick’s Gardens, Like Ours, Are Perennial.”

A plaque honoring the memory of Dick DeJong can be found on the bench. Dan Rolfe

“If there was something going on in our horticultural community, he was there,” Guntensperger said. “To help, learn, listen or chat with other members.”

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DeJong joined the association in 1984, where his wife, Margaret, was already a member. He eventually became one of the driving forces behind Seaforth’s many beautiful flower beds enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

“He was always there pulling weeds, planting annuals, watering thirsty flowers, dividing hostas, or trimming some shrubs to make the flower beds bright and pretty,” Guntensperger said. “He enjoyed plants and flowers, and was happy when others enjoyed them too.”

Margaret DeJong, who was the first to sit on the new bench after it was officially unveiled, said her husband would be “absolutely overwhelmed” by the community honoring his memory.

Dick DeJong’s wife, Margaret DeJong, was the first to sit on the bench after its unveiling. Dan Rolfe

DeJong has never been the type to do his work to earn praise or be noticed, said community manager John Gross.

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“He didn’t do it to erase himself,” Gross said. “He just did it because he enjoyed it, and he knew other people enjoyed it.”

Although he may not have asked for recognition, Dick DeJong has had his fair share of it over the years. He received the association’s Mary Huff Award in 2002, which celebrates members with 10 or more years of active membership and recognizes them for “contribution of time and effort to civic betterment” as well as community support.

Both Dick and Margaret DeJong have also been recognized outside the horticultural community for their work beautifying Seaforth Main Street, with both receiving a Civic Service Award in 2013.

Margaret and Dick DeJong. File image

But even today, the fruits of Dick DeJong’s labor can still be found throughout the Seaforth community.

“Anywhere in the city you see our gardening community signs, there are likely rooster fingerprints somewhere in the gardens,” Gross said. “Almost every park in Seaforth we take care of.”

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