Dr. Suzanne Berg was a unique personality that touched many hearts during her lifetime. The 36-year-old professor of communication passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 5. To honor her passing, the Gardening Club has decided to create a floral memorial to help keep Berg’s memory alive.
“The reason for the garden is to honor the passion and energy that Dr. Berg had for teaching since she was such an impactful and involved person on campus,” said Samantha Rader, Gardening Club President. “She impacted me greatly as a student. I had Dr. Berg for a few short weeks and I could feel her energy and passion she had for teaching and everything she cared about. She gave 100 percent. I feel that we as Newman students want to feel like that: to become passionate and be the best we can be.”
Dr. Crane-Laracuente, the sponsor for the Gardening Club, shared some memories of her colleague.
“I remember how she was getting started with gardening around her new home after she and her husband moved there from their apartment,” Crane-Laracuente said. “She had a peach tree in her front yard that she was very excited about, and she shared some of the compote she made from her first harvest. This was very generous; it takes intention to make, and there was only one tree.”
The memorial garden will be located in the southeast corner in front of DeMattias Hall right by Founders Plaza.
“I reached out to Krista Bahlinger from Kansas Native Plant Society. She gave me a bunch of seeds for the garden after coming out to Newman to the garden area,” Rader said. “She surveyed the soil and then told me which flowers would be best for the conditions and she gave me the right seeds.”
Rader said Crane-Laracuente and the Gardening Club’s vice president, Lauren Spencer, came up with the idea for the garden.
The goal for the garden is to have mostly purple flowers because purple was Berg’s favorite color. Rader said she hopes this garden will encourage pollinator creatures to enjoy the garden, such as bees and butterflies.
“We’re going to have a variety of milkweed because they attract monarch butterflies,” Rader said. “This is the only source of food-nectar that monarchs have and since their population is declining we want to do our part to help combat that.”
Crane-Laracuente had some memories of starting a garden with Berg this past year.
“Last year, I helped her pull weeds and plant a few food plants in some raised beds and brought her a bunch of mint that could spread in the backyard so she could make her own mint tea- which I am sure she would have done this year,” she said.
Rader said the garden is being funded by donations from the Kansas Native Plant Society and possibly from SGA funds. Rader said the Gardening Club members will plant the memorial garden. She said that Gardening Club and the Maintenance Department will both share responsibilities in taking care of the garden. The garden has an irrigation system and they will mostly just have to go in and pull weeds.
Crane-Laracuente said she is proud of what students are doing to honor her colleague.
“I think if she were here she would love the garden. She would also love seeing others enjoy and tend it. I am glad that the students thought of the idea and those in the Gardening Club are intent to see it out; clearly she was dear to them, too,” Crane-Laracuente said.
The Gardening Club and volunteers will be planting the garden in May before finals.
This story first appeared in the April 12, 2018 issue of The Vantage.