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Meet Pat Spence and Discover Another Way to Honor our Veterans

Indiana War Memorials: How did you get involved with the Indiana War Memorials parks?
Pat: Through General Goodwin

IWM: What was your inspiration/motivation to join us?
Pat: A bit selfish – it’s my front yard. I want to see it beautiful for my family, my neighbors and to honor our veterans. So I reached out to General when I retired in the spring of 2016 to volunteer in University Park, “My Front Yard”. He introduced me to Steve who introduced me to Alane, our Master Gardener. I gradually became involved with plants on the IWM steps, in Veterans Memorial Plaza, the American Legion Mall & some at CA 35.

IWM: Is there a special Veteran that has touched your life?
Pat: Glenn Dunville, my big brother.

IWM: How did Glenn influence you? Did he serve in the military?
Glenn & I are 10 years apart. He graduated from Purdue Aeronautical Engineering in 1968. He was one of the reasons I went into engineering (Civil not Aero). Glenn was in Air Force ROTC. He became a co-pilot/navigator on a reconnaissance plane with tours of duty in SE Asia/Vietnam and England. When I was 10 or 11 he took me up in a Cessna for my first small plane flight!

IWM: How long have you been working in the Parks?
Pat: This is the 5th summer with Alane Judkins, our master gardener, and the IWM Staff.

IWM: Have you always been interested and passionate about gardening?
Pat: No!

IWM: When or what made you passionate about gardening? Were you passionate about it prior to your involvement with Indiana War Memorials?
Pat: Since I have been volunteering (at first almost exclusively to get the weeds under control in University Park), Alane has pulled me along to be more interested, I suppose you can call it passionate now, in the art and skills of public gardening. Following are examples of the fun questions we would discuss and a few things I have learned:

  • What or where can we plant so the park critters won’t eat it or dig up the bulb?
  • What plants can we rescue from that construction project at the City County Building Park (i.e.: iris, daffodils, hostas)
  • How can we attract butterflies?
  • Where/how do we plant to avoid damage to the plants by park visitors (the sidewalk challenged folks)?
  • What types of plants work well with the grass watering routine?
  • Iris like their feet to breath, lilies could care less.
  • The dos and don’ts about planting, digging up and winter storage of canna bulbs.
  • Vinca tell you they have gotten too much water by turning their leaves yellow, too little water by folding their leaves.

IWM: What’s your favorite flower?
Pat: Hard question! There are multiple: I love the Yellow roses at CA 35 and in University Park, they bloom all summer and smell amazing. And Iris in the spring in Veteran Memorial Park! The purple miniature iris, then white immortality iris, then large purple iris; and in University Park the yellow iris in west horseshoe!

IMW: How often are you out and garden in the parks?
Pat: Up to 25 hours a week, it is very dependent on the seasons, obviously in the winter months I do not spend days out planting flowers.

IWM: How many volunteers do you work with in the Parks?
Pat: I work with groups that reach out through the Indiana War Memorials Foundation and through my own effort. Through Indiana War Memorial Foundation Volunteers I typically have 8-12 people from Indianapolis Power and Light Company, 10-12 people from Rolls Royce, and 5-11 from the November Project. Through my own effort I have worked with a few different groups.

  • The HNTB Corp- they have an office on Monument Circle. They are an engineering consulting firm with the Indy office focusing on public infrastructure – roads, bridges, water, wastewater, environmental – planning design construction engineering. I retired from HNTB’s Indy office almost 38 years ago. I have had groups between 3 to 8 folks and individuals from HNTB have volunteered to weed, plant, thin and transport over the past 4 summers.
  • The Indianapolis Athletic Club Condos at Vermont and Meridian; this is where I live. This year 3 folks from the building expressed an interest in volunteering to help weed, water and plant. These individuals along with others have also contributed to the Indiana War Memorials Foundation’s Flower Fund.
  • And finally – I have welcomed individuals I have met while tending to the gardens, about 6 folks so far. Some of these volunteers live near the parks, it’s their front yard too! Some work downtown, some meet friends downtown to visit and play in the dirt! Anyone is welcome! 

Thank you Pat for your time and effort in making our parks beautiful! If you find yourself social distancing in Downtown Indianapolis throughout the summer, be sure to visit the War Memorial Parks and see Pat’s hard work in person.

Check out the RTV6 story on the Indiana War Memorials volunteers planting roses in the parks, featured earlier this summer!

Want to learn more?
  • Volunteer with the Indiana War Memorial Foundation and Pat Spence.
  • Donate to the Indiana War Memorials Foundation Flower Fund.