Many people who have hung around Aledo and Annetta for a while have referred to Gay Larson as “Mother Nature.”
But Catherine (Cat) Miller and the Parker County Master Gardeners Association (PCMGA) made it official on Wednesday, Aug. 2, with a full-fledged coronation ceremony at the Aledo Community Center.
Friends and members of the Master Gardeners turned to look back when they heard a bell ringing to start the ceremony, as former PCMGA president Woody Shaw walked up the aisle in full regalia, shouting “Here ye! Hear ye!”
Shaw continued when he reached the front of the crowd: “We gather here today the 23rd of August 2023 on this joyous and historic occasion for Master Gardeners of Parker County and for all the world. It is today that our Gay Larson is invested with her regalia and is formally crowned as mother nature of the county and of the world. May her reign be known for sustaining nature and teaching others how to. We join here today to celebrate and to rejoice.”
Miller then began the proceedings with a prayer before announcing the purpose of the occasion.
“For a long time, I have wanted to thank Gay for everything she's done for me —everything she has taught me,” Miller said. “And I had that on my heart for a long time. And I didn't know what that would be, what it would look like, where that would be. And then it came to me. Everybody knows Gay is Mother Nature. But she's never been crowned Mother Nature.”
Miller continued by quoting Romans 12:6 (We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.) and I Peter 4:10 (Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.)
“That's exactly what Gay does,” Miller said. “She certainly does. And can I get an amen?”
Miller then called Larson up to her “throne” at the front of the room.
Larson, who has always had a quick wit, said she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“When you are faced with something like this and the person putting it on won't tell you what's going to happen, you have dreams,” Larson said. “And I dreamed last night that Cat came with three miniature donkeys for entertainment. I was wondering where did she find three talented donkeys!”
Larson said the real event was better.
“I love Parker County Master Gardeners; I'm one of the original ones,” Larson said. “And so I feel like the mother of the whole Association. I started in Tarrant County and my friend and Sharon came from Arlington — she drove all this way to see me with the robe.”
Following her remarks, Pastor Boot (Gay’s husband, Rolf Larson) handed Larson her scepter and her orb. Miller said the scepter was made from an upside-down candle tree. The head of the scepter was made from the roots of the tree.
After fitting Larson with her robe, Miller administered the oath: “Do you solemnly promise and swear to nurture gardens and teach of the gardens?”
“I love to tell people about gardens. Yes,” Larson replied.
After the coronation members of the audience were given the opportunity to tell their favorite stories about Mother Nature.
Husband Rolf told the group that he had been a registered representative of the New York Stock Exchange for 25 years before retiring. Spending his time assisting Gay in her gardening endeavors, Rolf was eventually made an honorary member of the Parker County Master Gardeners.
“When Gay and I wake up every morning, there is always something that has to be done,” Rolf said. “And we do it and at night when we go to bed, usually the last thing is we turn the water off.”
“We always say we did whether we did or not,” he quipped. “But we always have some project going on. Gay and I have just become so much closer in working physically together. We sit on the back porch a lot and we talk about how blessed we are. God's loved us. We don't know why he loved us in spite of who we are and what we do. He loves us so much.”
That Larson has made a difference in may lives was evident when other master gardeners rose to speak on her behalf.
Ellen Woodward spoke about Larson going to their 4-H group in 1996 where Woodward’s daughter was a member. They propagated some oleanders in the group and planted one next to the house.
In 2005 Larson went to visit when Woodward became a master gardener. She showed Larson the oleander, remarking that it died out every year when it froze and left an ugly root.
“She said 'take that sucker out!’ Woodward remarked. “So I just love that she knows you know what to do. And she's not afraid to take something out even though I was attached to it. You can trust whatever advice she may give. But I will have to say for me, Gay is more than a gardening friend. She is Jesus with skin. And you can always call her up. And she's got great advice and great wisdom.”
Aledo Mayor Nick Stanley was next, proclaiming “the 23rd day of August 2023 as the coronation day of crowning Mrs. Gay Larsen as Mother Nature in the City of Aledo.”
Stanley pointed out all the work Larson and the master gardeners had done to beautify Aledo City Hall, the Aledo Community Center, and her weekly work at the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth.
“The giving of oneself and service to one another empowers the giver and the recipient,” Stanley said in his proclamation.
Annetta Mayor Sandy Roberts likewise spoke of Larson’s work for the Town of Annetta.
“When I joined city council, I guess it's been five years ago, I was invited to participate in Bearcat 101. And I had this harebrained idea because August is our Monarch Awareness Month and so we need the master gardeners to you know, come there and help us talk about this,” Roberts said. “And I think we did barely a phone call and Gay brought the entourage and everything — and every year we don't even have to ask, she's on automatic. She participates with me every year people come up to our table now they're like, ‘so are you just educating us on butterflies?’ It's like, No, we're really the town of Annetta!’ So thank you for always giving, thank you for always educating, and thank you for doing what you do.”
Some of the testimonials were a bit emotional, as in the help recalled by Larson’s neighbor, Holly Stene. She recalled moving to the neighborhood and losing several rose bushes to rose rosette.
“So in a panic I called Gay and I said can you go tell me what's going on in my yard? And so she said 'you're gonna have to dig them up and don't ever plant another rose there in its place,’” Stene recalled.
Later that day they had lunch together and Larson provided advice about the landscaping around the house.
“And it was just so sweet that she took time out of her day to come have lunch with us and tell us all about the plants,’ Stene said.
“While that was happening Grandaddy Boot was on the driveway with sidewalk chalk drawing with her daughter,” Larson recalled.
The Larsons also maintain the entrance to Deer Creek off of Old Annetta Road, and Stene referenced that in her remarks: “it's such a nice place to turn in every day when you come home and see all all the work that they've done and I echo what Ellen said about you are Jesus with skin and it's spiritual wisdom that you can get from both of you.”
Annetta City Secretary Jamee Long recalled the Larsons helping beautify Town Hall and putting up Christmas lights.
Christi Huntington spoke about the times became a master gardener in 2009 under Larson’s tutelage. Huntington had small twins at the time.
“She's just been a huge part of my life,” Huntington said. “My grandmother always said, you know, if you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life. And there have been times that Gay has been like, ‘can you please give me that shovel because I want to go do that for you.’”
“It takes guts to be a master gardener and to have small children,” Larson said.
Lynda McCartney recalled her intro gardening class when she had only been in the community a short time.
“I remember I kept on hearing the name Gay Larson. And it was spoken with reverence and awe. That's how it came across to me. I couldn't figure out who this lady is. So I think I went over to introduce myself to her one day and I was trying to get my intern volunteer hours in so she let me work here in this this area on the off days because I had Bible study on Wednesdays,” McCartney said.
She also referred to “the guy who had been following her around. Gay and Rolf, they're lovely people. And I cannot think of a nicer thing for Cat to do than to honor her this way.”
Jay Kingston, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Agent for Parker County, said “if you want to an example of how to be kind-hearted and compassionate with a passion for gardening” that Gay would fit the description. Larson was one of the 12 people who started the Parker County Master Gardeners.
“I think we see that the foundation that was laid for our group was strong, and it's, because of you and your coworkers,” Kingston said.
Sharon Nice, a Tarrant County Master Gardener from Arlington, recalled working with Larson years ago.
“We were Master Gardeners when my husband passed away, and I came and started working at the mission,” Nice said. “And then it turned out to be fun, wonderful, beautiful friend.”
Others spoke as well to honor Gay Larson, but Master Gardener Terri Stokes summed up the event nicely at the end: “She's such a beautiful example of what a woman can be in this world. And how you can be there for your community. So, thank you for all you're doing. Thank you for being such a beautiful example for all of us.”
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