Our Heritage Revisited

The Ruth Snyder Garden

by Amy Pierce // October - November - December 2018

Regular walkers along North Main Street in Wake Forest the past few years have no doubt enjoyed the birth and growth into adolescence of a perennial garden on the south side of the Wake Forest Historical Museum. Tucked beneath four majestic trees, the garden was the dream of Sunny Snyder Newton (Wake Forest College Class of ’52) to honor her mother Mrs. Everett (Ruth) Snyder. The garden bears witness to the kind and nurturing nature of a lady long known to the College Birthplace. “Mother loved and worked for this Birthplace from the beginning,” states Sunny. “To have this garden nestled close to the home she loves is wonderful and to have it used and enjoyed by others means a great deal. It speaks to Mother’s life.”

Preparations began over 20 years ago in January of 1998 to have the garden ready for a public dedication on July 19, Ruth’s 92nd birthday. As Chair of the Birthplace Board’s Landscape Committee, Margaret Wineinger recruited area gardeners to work with her and by March the ground was rototilled, a layout was created, and the City of Raleigh delivered mulch. It was time to dig in.

Projects of this magnitude demand the efforts of many volunteers. According to an article in The Wake Weekly, Bob and Liz Ford cut down a dead cedar tree and tilled the garden. David and Betty Frankow also helped fell the tree and remove its debris; Max Wineinger watered and shoveled mulch; Bert Maggert watered, dug, carried dead limbs, and removed rocks; Ashland and Kent Brown edged the entire periphery; and brothers, Tim, Matt, and David Waddle planted, mulched, edged, and cleared. Stanley Jones, former groundskeeper at the Seminary, donated bricks from the old Wake Forest College pathways in order that a sidewalk might be built between the house and the garden. Jim Barbee donated labor to lay the walk. At one corner was planted a granite marker inviting those wandering in to “consider the lilies of the field…” And then it was done.

July 19th dawned hot and muggy. An ominous sky eventually let loose its own gift for the garden as scores of celebrants sat dry and shaded beneath a bright yellow and white tent. Surrounded by friends and family, a beaming Ruth listened as daughter Sunny read a poem she had written for the occasion. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren spoke of happy memories in other gardens created by “Grammie.” And Dr. James Blackmore reminisced about his long-time neighbor. All in all, it was a most memorable and important 92nd birthday for Ruth Snyder – and for the Birthplace.

During the remaining months of 1998, additional work was done to enhance the Ruth Snyder Garden. (Neither gardeners nor gardens get a long rest in southern climes!) Pansy plants were added in October. November brought four Wake Forest University students to plant 100 daffodils. And 1999 saw a gift of 400 varieties of bulbs from Merrie Hedrick, all of which were planted in January. An irrigation system was installed so the dedicated wouldn’t have to monitor sprinklers anymore.

Since 1999, life’s unceasing turning has brought its changes, including Ruth’s passing. The garden has grown ever more beautiful through the cycling years. And although fall is currently upon us, inevitably it will be springtime once again … springtime, when the garden is aglow with color and daffodils happily beam at North Main Street walkers. Roses will once again greet them as well. When next you pass this way, walk in through the cedars, pick a rose (that’s what they’re for), and rest on a bench among the lilies of the field.

Thanks to Jennifer Smart and Beverly Whisnant.

Amy Pierce

Lives in Wake Forest's Mill Village, where she is a writer, minister, and spiritual counselor.