BENSON — Fanning across the front of a building that houses the Benson Woman’s Club is a beautifully designed garden filled with shrubs and flowering plants, touched off with a meandering rock border.
The display is the work of Kay Edwards, a Benson resident who created the garden as a tribute to her mother, aunt and grandmother. All three women loved flowers and gardening and were members of a Woman’s Club in Marana years ago.
“In 1952 my family moved to Marana from Iowa,” Edwards said. “My mother was invited to join the Marana Woman’s Club, and absolutely loved it. My aunt and grandmother were members as well, so this is where my connection with the Benson Woman’s Club comes in. I’m not a member myself, but wanted to create this garden in honor of these three women who meant so much to me when I was young.”
In 1959, while Edwards was attending the University of Arizona, her family moved from Marana to Cascabel where her mother, Florence Gillespie, joined another women’s organization called the Cowbells.
“The Cowbells are a group of women who support the beef cattle community and are affiliated with the cattle growers association,” Edwards said. “My mother always enjoyed the Cowbells, but she never forgot the Woman’s Club in Marana and the wonderful friends she had there.”
Edwards moved to Benson four years ago, which is when she became acquainted with the Benson Woman’s Club.
“I’ve never joined the club, but I saw that their flower garden was in bad shape and decided to work on it. Like my mother, I love gardening.”
Edwards’ passion for gardening and the fond memories of her mother’s stories about the Marana Woman’s Club inspired her to delve into the gardening project four years ago, and breathe new life back into it.
“She has done an amazing job,” said Jackie Naegle, one of the women’s club members and current vice president. “This garden has completely transformed because of Kay’s magic touch. All of us are so impressed with how beautiful it looks.”
In addition to her gardening project, Edwards, who is 82, is a Friends of the Benson Library volunteer and is a St. David School District substitute teacher.
A 1961 University of Arizona graduate with a bachelor’s in education, she earned a master’s degree in 1963 and a doctorate from Northern Arizona University in 1984.
Edwards has dedicated her entire life to children, teaching and literacy, but will be stepping out of the classroom at the end of the school year.
“I’m officially retiring,” she said with a faint smile. “I know I’ll miss teaching, but it’s time to step away and retire.”
In her retirement years, Edwards will be focusing on the volunteer work with Friends of the Benson Library, an organization that uses its proceeds from selling donated books for scholarships.
This year, Friends is giving five $2,000 scholarships to local students that are graduating from Benson and St. David schools.
“We also give scholarships to students who are enrolled in college.”
All potential recipients need to apply for the scholarships, then wait through a selection process, Edwards said.
As Edwards steps out of her teaching career, she can rest assured that her passion for education will continue through the Friends scholarship program.
“The volunteer gardening project at the Woman’s Club and the work I do at Friends is rewarding. It’s wonderful to volunteer for an organization that promotes education by helping kids go to college through scholarships.”