A life tending crops and hogs on a 500-acre farm in Iowa may make some people crave the quiet life of retirement in Florida.
Not Richard and Kathleen Harder of Largo.
They came to the sunshine state a year ago. But they didn’t leave the hard work behind.
Richard and Kathleen are the masterminds behind the assembly of a colorful glass mosaic in the Wedding Garden at the . The mosaic will be formally revealed during the holiday lights display in December. However, visitors to the gardens can see it all coming together now.
Their work as volunteers may not be as grueling as farm work, so maybe they did slow down a little.
“Kathy is a microbiologist and we owned a farm in Iowa. We sold cattle and soybeans and corn and hogs too,” Richard said. “We raised our family up there and when they were all gone and off to school we left and came out here where it’s pretty all the time!”
“No more ice storms!” Kathy said.
Richard and Kathy work Wednesday mornings, but also are a big part of the annual holiday lights display.
“Hopefully it won’t be quite so cold this year. They said come with your heavy clothes and a blanket to sit on,” Richard said. “And we’re thinking, Florida? You’ve gotta be kidding! But by the water it did get cold.”
They also come in when there’s something special to be done.
“Like this morning they wanted us to hang that stag-horn on the top of the pavilion,” Richard said.
“He already figured out how to get the orchids up there and out of reach," Kathy added.
The couple likes volunteering at the Botanical Gardens because they can take on big projects such as the mosaic without too much supervision.
”Working with them is easy because they tell you what they expect and they let you alone and let you do it.”
The water and fish-themed mosaic is about one third done right now and the Harders admit the work is sometimes tedious.
“These fish have eyes and I drilled every single hole,” Richard said. “Glass is not easy to drill.”
Richard and Kathy are looking forward to the mosaic’s reveal. That’s because it will soon be the subject of a scavenger hunt and they can’t wait to see the reaction from children.
“We had a teacher on our team and she was saying that we needed to have a turtle,” Kathy said. So the artist agreed she would design one turtle. The hunt will require kids to find the one turtle and all 6 frogs.
For now, though, the Harders will focus on finishing the mosaic while making retirement as interesting as possible.
“I don’t think we had a clue,” Kathy said, speaking about the work that went into the mosaic.
Richard smiled and said, “We learned as we went.”
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