Love Planted a Rose

By Richard Backlund & Eleanor Wetherill
Photographs by Bob Dunham

John and Eleanor Wetherill moved to John Knox Village from DeLeon Springs in June of 1993. Eleanor was 60 and John was 72. It was while they were living in DeLeon Springs when John was approached by a John Knox Village marketing staff member about moving to John Knox Village to become the Village’s gardener. The marketing staff member heard John had a green thumb and the Village needed a gardener to revitalize its rose garden and bring it back to life. John agreed.

John had established a reputation in the area as an excellent, successful grower of roses. He had been employed by Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania for 26 years as one of their gardeners. They decided to move to Florida in 1987 to be near their only daughter Anita, who was living in St. Augustine at the time. When John and Eleanor were searching for a new home, they discovered DeLeon Springs and loved it. They bought a cottage with a two-car garage with a workshop overlooking the lake.

When they moved to John Knox Village, they chose a cottage on Nasturtium near Lake Fountain. John had a shed for his tools and fertilizers. He bought a golf cart to transport his materials to the rose garden site. With much hard work, John was able to bring the rose garden back to award-winning condition. Besides working on the rose garden, he also planted several Cypress trees on the south side of the lake.

Over the years, many articles have been written about John’s accomplishments with the rose garden. Of course, Eleanor is very proud of what he had done.

Because of spending so much time out in the hot Florida sun and advancing age, he realized the job was having a negative effect on his health. When he retired after fourteen years of service, his daughter, gave her father a windmill which currently sits near the new dog park.

Eleanor and John in the rose garden.

While John was putting his energy into his work, Eleanor kept busy. She served two terms as chair of the John Knox Village Resident Council. She and John delivered meals-on-wheels for 20 years. She planned Quaker meetings for the four Quakers living in the Village and several from DeLand. Eleanor has also volunteered at Majestic Oaks for many years.

Eleanor has demonstrated and shown great strength, empathy and fortitude using her Quaker core values and beliefs.

At present she is involved with the prayer chain and volunteering at Majestic Oaks. Whenever you see Eleanor resting, she is knitting.

Eleanor Wetherill pictured above knitting in her apartment.

Eleanor has a five-year-old cat, Suzy, who has taken over possession of her apartment. Suzy likes to climb up and nuzzle in Eleanor’s neck whenever Eleanor is resting or retires for the evening. If Suzy cannot get close enough, she pulls the sheet down away from Eleanor’s neck so she can nuzzle.

The rose garden John Wetherill spent much time cultivating.

When the Wetherills arrived at John Knox Village, they were surprised to find security delivered the weekly newsletter known as the Green Sheet which later became the Village Weekly. Eleanor felt that if she could find resident volunteers for each street who were willing to take on this job, it would relieve security of this responsibility. It seems to have worked out well.

Eleanor is very happy and confident that John and she made the right move to John Knox Village. Living in the Village and the friends she has made, while here over the past 26 years, have worked well for her.