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Farms beautification awards recognize breathtaking landscaping

The home of Michael Fournier and R. Michael Flores, in the 300 block of Touraine Road, received a beautification award this year from the Grosse Pointe Farms Beautification Advisory Commission, but the homeowners also had been honored several times for their previous home in Grosse Pointe Park.

Posted October 26, 2016

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Homeowners and business owners who managed to keep their gardens thriving despite a summer that started hot and dry and ended hot and soggy were honored for their handiwork during the Grosse Pointe Farms Beautification Advisory Commission’s 28th annual beautification awards Oct. 11 at Pier Park.

Grosse Pointe City Councilman Lev Wood, who also is chair of the Beautification Advisory Commission, welcomed attendees to the ceremony, which included some food courtesy of one of the award recipients — Mr. C’s Deli.

“Every year, we get together and give a special shoutout to the residents who have gone above and beyond,” Wood told attendees. “You have spent countless hours in your gardens … adding value to your homes. … We are very grateful to you for your beautification efforts.”

Each August, Wood said, the commission divides the city into 12 districts and gives each member one or two districts to explore in search of worthy award candidates. From that list, he said, the commission narrows it down to a smaller list of finalists, and from there, winners are chosen.

“Every year we have so many beautiful homes, it’s a difficult situation to pick out the top 10 or 12,” said Andrew Llewellyn, who’s been a member of the Farms Beautification Advisory Commission for 12-13 years. “I was impressed with a lot of the lawns because of how dry our season was. It’s difficult to keep your lawn green when it’s dry.”

Lori-Ann Rickard said she moved into her home in the 300 block of Fisher Road when her daughter was in kindergarten, and her daughter is now 26 and living in another state.

“When I got the letter (that I had won), I was pretty positive that they sent it to the wrong house, because all of your houses look so beautiful,” Rickard told fellow award winners.

Mark and Joy Neych, who were honored for their home in the 400 block of Touraine Road, said it took a while to figure out what did and didn’t work in their yard. Joy Neych said one of their next-door neighbors was a big help with what to plant.

Peter and Patricia Bologna, who received an award for their home in the 300 block of Country Club Drive, each said the other was responsible for the lovely landscaping.

But for some couples, one person is more responsible for the yard than the other.

“I’m accepting this on behalf of my crazed husband,” joked April Cheesewright of her spouse, Gregory, who wasn’t available to attend the ceremony because he’s studying to become a master gardener. She said her husband will mow the grass as often as three times a week if the lawn isn’t perfect, and he’s been known to sneak out at midnight to pick up a stray leaf. Their immaculately maintained property in the 400 block of McKinley Avenue was one of the winners of a beautification award this year.

Some winners have been honored before. Dennis DeCoster, who lives in the 400 block of Cloverly Road, received a legacy award from the Beautification Advisory Commission in 2010, as well as a previous beautification award.

“I am grateful and humbled every time,” DeCoster said. “I think it’s a great community that we live in.”

Stephen and Nancy Hansen, who live in the 300 block of Stephens Road, have been making improvements to the property since they moved in about seven years ago. They also received a beautification award in 2010.

“It was really, really overgrown (when we moved in),” said Nancy Hansen, crediting her husband with the gardening. “We spent the first year whacking away.”

Michael and Juanita Brown, who live in the first block of Moross Road, have received three previous beautification awards, one of them for their former residence in Grosse Pointe Park. They invited their young grandson to accept the honor with them because, as Michael Brown put it, “He’s our helper.”

Three awards are impressive, but at least one recipient has earned even more than that. Michael Fournier and R. Michael Flores have been in their home in the 300 block of Touraine Road for only a year, and they’ve already earned their first beautification award from the Farms. But Wood said the couple received the same honor four times over the last 25 years for their former residence in Grosse Pointe Park, “so they are not any strangers to winning beautification awards.”

Flores said that the day they put their Park home up for sale last year, they received notification that they’d won another beautification award there. He and Fournier ended up giving the award to the home’s new owners.

“We’re very honored that we’ve received this award,” Flores said. “It’s a real labor of love.”

He said they had also won several honors in the Park for their Christmas decorations, so their new neighbors can expect a lovely and tasteful display from the couple this year.

Gerald and Molly Wagner face challenges most fellow Farms residents don’t have to contend with, because their home, in the 300 block of Mary Street, is on an unpaved road.

Gerald Wagner said that when they purchased the house eight years ago, “It was a wreck. … The Realtors didn’t even lock the doors. … Nobody wanted to even go in it.” The Wagners added a fence, landscaping, grass and more to what had been a yard consisting of “just mud and dirt and a few overgrown trees,” he said.

Ronald and Jean Latiff, who live in the 200 block of Stephens Road, also know a little something about tackling home renovation. Ronald Latiff said the couple completely renovated their home, inside and out.

Other residential winners included Paul and Robin Stanford, who live in the 200 block of Stephens Road, and Alan and Lydia D’Agostini, who live in the 200 block of Grosse Pointe Boulevard.

There were two businesses honored as well: Mr. C’s Deli, at 18660 Mack Ave., and Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage, at 159 Kercheval Ave. 

Kevin Savaya, whose family has owned this Mr. C’s for the last 16 years, said he’s been working in the store since he was a youth. Now he and his wife, Renee, are the managers, and they’ve spruced up the property inside and out, adding a number of plantings off the front to bring some lively greenery to the bustling business corridor.

Marianne Langlois, the director at Cottage, said the medical facility will turn 100 in 2019. Recent renovations at the former hospital coincided with the opening last year of an American House that now occupies the second and third floors of Cottage. New shrubs, trees and pergolas give the front of the building a more welcoming and open appearance.

“We wanted to make it look like it was another home in the community,” Langlois said. “We didn’t want it to look so commercial.”

In addition, she said roughly a dozen female students at Brownell Middle School in the Farms have played a key role in the newly installed stainless steel Tree of Strength in front, decorating the tree with ribbons whose different colors represent various forms of cancer. The public is welcome to visit the tree and spend time reflecting on loved ones they know who have battled cancer, Langlois said. The tree is about raising cancer awareness, inspiring hope and honoring those who have lost their lives to the disease.

This year, the Beautification Advisory Commission gave a special recognition award to the city for its ash and elm tree maintenance program. Dutch elm disease and the emerald ash borer have decimated the elm and ash tree populations throughout the region, but the Farms has managed to hold on to some of its precious mature trees through use of various treatments over the years. Wood said current estimates show that there are about 212 city-owned American elms still standing, and roughly 400 privately owned elms.

“The city’s early detection and treatment has been proven,” Wood said. “The city’s been nationally recognized.”

He gave particular credit to Public Service Director Terry Brennan and his annual tree program.

For the commission, the awards ceremony is always an event to remember.

“This is always a nice night,” Llewellyn said. “It’s nice to do and see all of the smiles.”

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