Moments after students departed from school grounds, the faculty and staff at L.C. Bird High School gathered near their bus loop last Wednesday morning, June 15, for the unveiling of a flower garden in the name of the late chorus teacher Margaret Gregory.
Gregory, who spent all but one year of her 24-year teaching career at Bird, passed away suddenly March 1, 2010, after a bout with cancer.
“We miss her and we think of her fondly,” said Carol Wittman, an office assistant at the high school. Wittman is also a certified master gardener and has taken a proactive role in making Bird beautiful, including the creation and maintenance of Gregory’s garden. “And this is a celebration garden, not a memorial garden,” she said. “The difference is that ‘memorial’ reminds me of sadness, and a celebration was all that she was, and it still continues to be with us.”
Once an “exercise buddy” of Gregory’s, Wittman recalled that before she passed away, Gregory was just beginning to truly discover her joy for flowers and gardening; she said the true purpose of the event Was to “share Margaret’s fondness for love and music and flowers.”
Featuring an assortment of vincas, crape myrtles, various annuals, and roses illuminated in a bright pink, – Gregory’s “signature color, her favorite color,” said her husband, Bird English teacher Andy Gregory – the garden faces the student parking lot, possibly serving as a reminder of her dedication as an educator.
As students and faculty have worked throughout the year to create and maintain the garden, Wittman anticipates that preserving the garden will become a school tradition, impacting students for years to come.
That morning, Bird’s Principal, Dr. Beth Teigen, addressed a crowd of about 40 educators from the high school before unveiling the plaque, which deemed it the “Margaret F. Gregory Celebration Garden.”
“It just reflects the love she gave to us each and every day,” she told them. Teigen had for many years worked with Gregory and knew her on a personal level. She also spoke on her behalf when Bird’s auditorium was named after Gregory during the fall semester.
And for Andy, the school itself is a living embodiment of Gregory’s legacy. “In fact this whole school, wherever you go, there’s some touch of Margaret through the kids or through the auditorium – which is named for her,” he said. “And of course the music program is really her legacy; that is, the choral music program.”
He said the celebration garden resembled many projects Gregory had once pursued, that it was exactly the kind of garden she wanted to have because she’d forget to weed them after starting them. “This one, however, is well-tended,” he said. “She would love this, absolutely love this.”