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'She died in my hands, with a flower': Waterville man honors wife with garden

Flowers are more than just colorful plants to Dutch Klotzner. He maintained a tradition of bringing Jane a flower every day, up until her death in March 2022.

WATERVILLE, Ohio — Virgil "Dutch" Klotzner loves two things: flowers and his late wife Jane.

At StoryPoint, a senior living facility in Waterville, an array of colorful flowers adorn the front entryway of the building.

But they're nothing compared to the garden Klotzner, 93, maintains behind the building.

When Jane passed away in March 2022, Klotzner decided to start a garden in her memory, their daughter, Kris Bowser, said.

"I decided okay, well I'll go buy a couple of pots and we'll be good and he said 'no you need to buy more," Bowser said.

Flowers are more than just colorful plants to the Klotzners. Dutch maintained a tradition of bringing Jane a flower every day, up until her death.

"I put my arm on her back and just about the time she took one giant gasp, my hand went numb," he said. "She died in my hands, with a flower."

Credit: Kris Bowser

Maintaining the garden keeps Klotzner mind and body at work. Bowser said he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, dementia and "truly struggles with some of the smaller details."

"The beauty of this is that it's not just helping his brain, but his heart, his soul, who he is, "Bowser said.

Klotzner keeps a photo of his wife and before he goes out to work on the garden every day, he taps her on the head.

"Every time I go out, I reach and tap her on the head and say 'I'm going to work honey,' and I go to work," he said. "Then she looks at me and goes, 'you better.'"

Credit: WTOL 11

And while the garden is in memory of his wife, Klotzner said it brings joy to everyone at StoryPoint so he tries to keep it in good shape.

Klotzner doesn't let all of his flowers stay in the garden, though. He now gives them to others at StoryPoint.

"I usually get one on my desk Monday mornings," StoryPoint Director Belinda DeJonghe said.

She said even when she's gone for a few days, Klotzner will make sure to put her flowers in the fridge to preserve them.

He said other residents at StoryPoint will also ask him for advice for their own plants, and he happily obliges with his expertise.

A welcome sign sits in the garden, nestled among the flowers, inviting others to share in Klotzner's joy.

"The welcome sign is exactly what it means," he said. "Welcome."

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