I RECENTLY discovered the sad news that one of our quirky, local icons had passed ... Wally, the garden guru.
Many locals would know Wally from his plant stall at the Wonthaggi Rotary market and also at times at the Grantville market. Rain hail or shine, he would pack his beat-up van full of plants, fruit trees, cottage garden favourites and some native varieties – as well as his trusty dog Curly. This frail-looking, 90-ish-year-old man was old-school: hardy, resilient, hard-working, sharp-minded, stubborn and forever generous when it came to his gardening knowledge and goods.
I knew Wally superficially for three years, often visiting him for gardening advice and to buy fruit trees. He would offer me some small struggling plants in exchange for treating Curly's infected ears.
Wally never asked for help nor was he a receiver of charity. He appeared to believe this was a weakness and could threaten his independence as a senior. Being confined to serviced accommodation was not for Wally. He seemed intent on living the last years of his life the way he wanted, without confinement or restrictions. This is despite being hard of hearing, and with poor eyesight.
I believe Wally passed doing the things he loved most, pottering in his garden, his hands in the dirt among the wild jungle rumble of a garden. Ideally, every senior has earned this right to live their final days as they please.
Did you ever cross paths with Wally at the markets? Did you ever buy a plant or chat to him about gardening? You may have a little bit of Wally living in your garden. I do, beautiful fruit trees that are beginning to thrive, a correa plant that he stumbled across in his rambling garden and which he gave to me as a gesture of thanks, as well as the old rustic ladder that has pride of place in my garden ... all memories of Wally.