Gardening project pays tribute to Riekeberg, Riddle

Published 12:58 pm Monday, April 8, 2024

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By SCOTT MIMS | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM — A current Pelham Garden Club project memorializes two beloved members of the community whose lives were cut short by cancer.

Volunteers planted flowers at the Destiny Riekeberg memorial at Pelham City Park on Monday, April 1. Riekeberg was a 9-year-old Pelham youth cheerleader who died Sept. 17, 2020, from hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer. Her story inspired many people and garnered national attention.

The project was the first by the Pelham Garden Club since the passing of Dr. Teresa Nichols Riddle, who was instrumental in organizing the club. Riddle, a former Pelham City Council president, died on March 19.

“I felt like not only did we honor her (Destiny) but we honored Teresa by continuing on with our project at the Garden Club, because that was one thing that she wanted to make sure,” said Pelham Library Director and club member David Smith. “I feel really good that we’re able to continue to do things for the city and the community.”

Smith is part of the club’s leadership team alongside Jim Collins, Sylvia Sheffield and Dennis Stanek. He recalled the club’s origins back in the fall of 2022 with Riddle and her husband, Larry.

“Teresa was real community oriented, a very inspirational person to be around and a driving force,” Smith said.

Dustin and Lacretia Riekeberg, Destiny’s parents, stopped by the park to see the progress and were appreciative of the efforts.

“Dustin and I believe that plants and a garden represent life and growth,” Lacretia said. “We are excited to have Destiny’s memorial surrounded by a beautiful garden. Many of the flowers will have the name ‘Destiny’ in them that makes it truly special. Teresa, who was a part of the Garden Club and who recently passed away from cancer, chose the flowers with Destiny’s name on them. So, I will think (of) her now as well as Destiny when I look at those flowers. We hope that the public is drawn in and invited to come visit Destiny’s memorial and even have a seat and enjoy the beautiful garden that is to come.”

Collins said the project is nearly complete, except for two pieces of shrubbery that will be added upon their arrival. He said Darlene Webb, another club member, took the reins of the Destiny project and a total of seven volunteers reportedly showed up to do the planting.

Collins said that Riddle was a firm believer that the Garden Club would be a working club, actively doing projects in the community.

“That was her vision,” he said, adding, “She would have been pleased if she had seen the end result. She was aware we were determined not to let the Garden Club go down.”

Other projects have included removing invasive plants and replanting native plants along the city’s trails, installing markers with QR codes that inform visitors about trees, and a cleanup of Bishop Creek. The club has worked closely with Parks and Recreation Director Brian Cooper, Collins said.

The Pelham Garden Club meets on the second Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Pelham Public Library. It is open to all adults interested in all areas of gardening. There is no cost to attend.

“You don’t have to live in Pelham to be part of the club,” Smith said.