The fairy gardeners
With the recent medical scares he and his wife have faced, Frank Vorlicek has been noticeably absent this summer from something he truly loves—flower gardening and keeping up his yard.
But, thanks to a group of caring friends, Vorlicek’s Blooming Prairie yard won’t miss a beat moving forward as it has been returned to pristine condition. On a recent sunny morning, a group of 11 people made its way into his yard and cleaned it up by pulling weeds and trimming branches.
“We’re the fairy gardeners,” Pam Folkens, organizer of the group, said as she pulled out a hand full of weeds. “It will be better than what it was.”
Vorlicek has been suffering from what turned out to be an overdose of wellbutrin, causing near incapacitating balance problems. He also suffered a severe bladder infection. He said he was “constantly falling down,” but luckily never broke anything. In March, he was treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester before spending the next three months in therapy at Fieldcrest Nursing Home in Hayfield.
“I went through hell,” Vorlicek said. He confesses that his medical setbacks caused him to have suicidal thoughts over the past several months. “I was completely out of my head,” he said, adding he now understands how drug users have suicidal tendencies.
Doctors initially didn’t think Vorlicek would be able to walk again. But, after significant therapy and now the use of a walker, he is able to get around again, though at a much slower pace. He returned back home on June 30.
When Vorlicek got home, one of the first things he noticed was that his yard hadn’t been touched all year. That’s, in part, because his wife, Diane, has been facing her own medical problems and waiting for a kidney transplant for the past 2 ½ years. She finally received a new kidney July 10.
Besides not having a yard in perfect shape, Vorlicek also had to deal with not being able to run his flower business, Frank & Tom’s, which he had done for the past 28 years in Blooming Prairie. “I was a mess,” he says. “It was very hard for me.”
The efforts of the fairy gardeners are taking “a lot of sadness” out of the situation for Vorlicek. “I think it’s very nice otherwise I would have nothing but weeds,” he said. “It’s a blessing. I am so overwhelmed with how good people are. Oh my God, it absolutely overwhelming that these men and women would take time to come here and weed my mess.”
Vorlicek’s backyard garden, which he can see from his living room, comforts him. “It’s a love of nature and God’s creation,” he said. “I am very much at peace,” he added.
Helping Folkens with the project were Nancy Peterson, Vern and Beth Krebs, Karen Valentine, Judy Bishop, Donna Maixner, Mary Malherek, Ali Mach, Patti Misgen and Karla Ressler.
For about 10 hours over two days, the group hauled out five pick-up loads of weeds and brush. They cut down a dead tree and trimmed up all the other trees. The women also had their hands full taking out invasive perennials.
“It was all a jungle,” Folkens said, adding it’s never-ending when it comes to gardening.
Folkens said she was at her uncle’s funeral when she ran into Vorlicek, and he jokingly asked if she wanted to weed his garden. It was no joke for Folkens, and she immediately went to work to find some help. She made a few phone calls and announced it at a Bible study.
“We even recruited some Catholics,” Folkens said with a laugh. “Working together—both Lutherans and Catholics.”
Beth Krebs credits Vorlicek with doing so much for the community over the years. “We have been buying flowers from Frank and Tom’s for years,” Krebs said. “He has been giving us flower advice for years. He’s always loved flowers, and he has inspired many people.”
Krebs also spoke about how Vorlicek taught their children for many years. Vorlicek is a retired teacher and drama instructor from Blooming Prairie High School.
Folkens says helping the Vorliceks is the least they can do for a man that “has done a lot for the community flower wise.” She added she thinks Vorlicek will be pleased with the results of their hard work.
Vorlicek admits his yard isn’t the easiest to handle. “I have some tough flowers to deal with in the yard,” he said.
He says the generosity of the fairy gardeners has added to his healing process. “It’s one less thing I have to worry about,” Vorlicek said.
Added Folkens,” We hope Frank can get out here some day to walk out here and to have the freedom to enjoy it.”