ELLERBE — Growing up on a farm, Marshall Ussery knows a thing or two about what it takes to keep a garden. Since he was 40, Ussery said he’s gardened and helped others take care of their own. Now at 96, he still tends to his flowers and crops.
His caregiver, Judy Hunt, offers to help, but Ussery said he can do it on his own.
“He’s something else about his garden and flowers,” Hunt said. “I usually let him go out there and do what he needs to do but if he needs me, he’ll give me the say and I’ll go out with him.”
Ussery grows a little bit of everything from flowers, like daylilies and gradiolas, to vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and corn.
“We freeze it, we eat it and we give some away,” said Hunt. “I freeze anything that comes out of the garden for him. He loves my homemade vegetable soup.”
Ussery refers to an almanac that informs him on when he should plant his flowers and produce. He said it helps him get a head start on the season and lets him know when the best days are to plant seeds.
And in addition to keeping up his own garden, he helps his friends and family get a garden of their own started.
“The prettiest bed (of flowers) I made is in Wilmington,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun with the work in the garden. It keeps you young.”
The flowers in Wilmington belong to his son, Steve Ussery. He traveled to see him earlier in the year and helped him plant some flowers of his own.
“I carried bulbs and plants and stuff and I went down there to help him with it,” he said. “He tried to beat his daddy out of it but it was beautiful.”
Marshall Ussery served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1943 to 1946 where he trained war dogs. After completing his service, he went on to work for Carolina Power Company for 36 years. He’s moved quite a bit from place to place, but no matter where Ussery landed, one thing stayed certain.
“Everywhere I went I had a garden,” he said. “And everywhere I’ve been I had my flowers.”
With the passing of two wives, battling cancer and having a pacemaker replaced three times, Hunt said gardening keeps Ussery grounded.
“I’ve never met a man like him,” she said. “He’s a very loving and kind man with a good heart. Gardening has been therapeutic for him.”
Ussery said he has more than $70 worth of flowers ordered for him and he and Hunt can’t wait for them to arrive.