Senior creates outdoor spot for community to enjoy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 25, 2006

A garden can serve as an oasis, a place to enjoy the beauty of nature and escape the troubles of everyday life. Gardening can also be very therapeutic, as one Greenville resident can attest.

&uot;I do enjoy working up here. I always had a nice garden when I lived in Selma, and I really missed it,&uot; 83-year-old Cumi Luckie says.

She uses a closed umbrella to steady her walk up the stepping-stones set into the hillside across from her Country Village apartment. Sunflowers smile and blooms in pots beckon with their bright colors.

A windsock flutters in the breeze and wind chimes gently sing.

A table and benches invite you to sit in the shade and enjoy the view from the top. Down below is a small vegetable patch with squash, beans and peas. A sign on the hilltop announces you have entered &uot;Cumi’s Garden.&uot;

&uot;When I first moved in here a couple of years ago, this area was just a mess, weeds and brush everywhere. You couldn’t even walk through it,&uot; Luckie says.

After finding out the hillside area belonged to the nearby First Christian Church, Luckie contacted the church and asked permission to clean up the area.

&uot;I hired somebody to clear it out – and I got the garden started.&uot;

Bit by bit, Luckie added plants and other items to her garden. The stepping stones and handrail are two of the newest additions, making it a little easier for the gardener and her fellow senior citizens to enjoy the spot.

Some of the plants Luckie has put in her garden are recycled ones, about to be tossed out by friends and neighbors. The hydrangea bush and roses in her front yard are plants she rescued from friends.

She makes sure &uot;Cumi’s garden&uot; stays colorful throughout the winter months by tucking a few artificial blossoms here and there beneath the trees.

&uot;People were going to throw them out, and I said, I can use them,&uot; Luckie explains.

Joyce Wilkinson, who lives near Selma, is proud of the work her long-time friend has done.

&uot;She’s really put a lot into this and made it something special,&uot; Wilkinson, who regularly stays in touch with Luckie, says.

When you consider what the senior citizen went through in the past few years, her blooming oasis is &uot;almost a miracle,&uot; Wilkinson says.

Luckie, her husband, James and daughter, Judy Berberich, had gone shopping in a home improvement center in Montgomery in the fall of 2003. The three were in the car together when another vehicle ran a red light and crashed into them.

&uot;I lost my husband, I lost my daughter. My body was broken up all over. Most people didn’t think I was going to make it, either,&uot; the widow recalls in a soft voice.

For eight long, tortuous months of recovery time, Luckie says she often felt like giving up on life.

&uot;I had to learn how to walk again, how to talk again, because my jaw was broken, too. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to live anymore.&uot;

Another blow came when a second daughter, Ann Myrick,, with whom she was living, passed away from cancer.

&uot;It was hard, very hard. I missed everyone. I had to find somewhere to go.&uot;

That &uot;somewhere&uot; turned out to be Country Village Apartments, where Luckie has resided for the past two years.

Born and raised in Greenville and a Selma resident for 30 years, the senior citizen has come full circle.

&uot;Here I am, and here I plan to stay. It’s a nice place and I have some really good neighbors, thank goodness.&uot;

As it turns out, many of her fellow &uot;villagers&uot; are old acquaintances from her days working at Boss Manufacturing in the 1960s and ’70s.

&uot;I found out I knew a lot of the folks here. Everyone is friendly and kind and good,&uot; Luckie says.

In fact, they’re just the kind of neighbors who will keep your garden watered when you’re away.

&uot;Yes, the folks here do help me out when I am on vacation,&uot; Luckie says with a smile.

The recent drought has kept Luckie busy just keeping her flowers and plants alive in the intense heat.

&uot; I have been watering and watering every day. Oh, I wish you could have been here a few days ago. My day lilies were just absolutely beautiful then,&uot; the veteran gardener reflects.

&uot;Come back by in the spring – the roses will be lovely again,&uot; she says with a smile and a nod.

A garden can be a very good thing.