General's excuse blossoms

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kerry Bartlett
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It's origin, as the story goes, began many years ago when Brig. Gen. Jack Thames would go to the Officer's Club to get out of the house. His excuse was that he was going to take care of the flower garden which served as a good cover for the real reason, socializing with the members. It was the best kept secret in town. Little did he know this clandestine operation would last for years.

Today, it is known as the Flower and Garden Club. While socializing is at the heart of the organization, it truly exists for the benefit of today's service members. From April through December, the club hosts a variety of events including two golf tournaments, a hog roast and a dinner-dance to raise money for military organizations such as the service clubs and the Minnesota Armed Forces Services center at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Throughout the years, the club has donated more than $50,000 to various organizations, said Lt. Col. Jim Olson (Ret.), one of the original founders. Founded in 1981, the club today has more than 150 members, he added.

Pansy's by no means, the men and women of the club have already shown their mettle.
"The five original founders are all World War Two veterans," Colonel Olson said. "Two of them are still in the club today."

All branches and ranks of the military are represented in the club which also includes civilians, according to Larry Kleven, a retired school teacher who served in the Marines from 1953-1956.

"You don't have to be a member of the Officer's Club, we just use it as our base of operations," Olson said. Anyone is welcome to join."
They meet at the All-ranks Club (a.k.a Officer's Club) for fellowship and events planning. Mostly the fellowship as this annual pilgrimage reunites families of another order. And they plant a few flowers too.

For the last several years, military members and civilian guests have seen the fountain surrounded by flowers and the outside deck accented by potted arrangements.
"We have hostas, rose bushes, dalia's, a cherry tree and other bushes," said Kleven.
For those who can't even grow mold, members of the club have a wealth of knowledge to share. Kleven's wife, Grace, has been gardening for, well, many years and does a lot of the planting.

For all the hours of work, there are no salaries, only the silent appreciation of passersbys for a job well done. As with military service, it seems fitting that so many would benefit from the service of a few.

Like its origin, this club is a family of another order and it's the best kept secret in town.