MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Jeff Youmans met Tonya on a blind date. They reconnected a year later and were inseparable.
Tonya was a nurse at the old Medical Center, now known as Atrium Health Navicent. In 2014, Tonya fell and hurt her shoulder. After her fall, she became sick.
Tonya was diagnosed with a rare form of cystic fibrosis and needed around-the-clock care. The Youmanses always loved nature, and Tonya asked Jeff to put some flowers around the outside of the house.
"First, I built a couple of flowerbeds here and there. Then one day, I was like, 'I'm going to find some windows and build a greenhouse.' Probably two of the most beautiful years of our marriage," Jeff Youmans said.
The greenhouse was built on his kids' basketball court. Youmans told 13WMAZ, around 25 different types of flowers are settled inside and outside of the house, but his son, Adam, who was his wildflower, never got to cherish the peaceful place.
His son died in 2016 from suicide. In a story we reported on in 2018, his sister Courtney told us about how she was breaking the stigma about suicide. Youmans wants to tell others it's OK to not to be OK.
"Mental health is very, very important. We saw for ourselves that no matter how happy or joyful or comical you are, we all suffer," Youmans said.
In June 2022, his wife passed. That didn't stop Youmans from keeping up the greenhouse. He says he spends about two hours a day maintaining the house and the garden.
"I spend about a week out here trying to get it weeded and seeds planted and all that. Once you get the seeds planted outside and you water them and get them going, I can water them for months, it can rain one time and everything jumps. There's something about God's water," Youmans said.
The windows are from an antique home and the doors are from the basement of Central State Hospital.
On a nice sunny day, you will see the flowers blossoming through the window. Youmans calls the greenhouse his sanctuary and wants to share the space with others.