Landscaping Heroes

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Landscaping Heroes

Lucy, Editor-in-Chief

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Most people are aware of the many jobs that take place to ensure that St. Robert School and Parish is functioning just the way it needs to. You may recall past projects, such as the renovation of the media center or the installation of the new gym floor. Also, numerous individuals work inside the building to keep the school looking clean and appealing. These are people that are seen daily walking the school halls. However, many people do not recognize those who work outside of the school building in order to keep the grounds looking pristine. Many hardworking people take time out of their day to come to St. Robert and busy themselves with gardening, fixing the front lawn, or repairing walkways outside of the school. My neighbor, Mr. David Olson, happens to be one of these amazing people who volunteers so much time, work, and energy into making the exterior of St. Robert look the best it can possibly be.

Mr. Olson has been living in Shorewood with his wife Judy for around 45 years. He and his wife had five children together, all of whom attended St. Robert. David has been a parishioner at St. Robert for about 50 years. As a young adult he attended the University of Minnesota for college, and he stayed there for law school as well. He was a lawyer, and he also spent time tutoring kids that attended the inner city schools. When he first came to Milwaukee, he worked mostly with the Milwaukee Bar Association. This association was established in 1858 and attends to the needs of lawyers, judges, and the members of Milwaukee County. This association promotes public service, supports the courts of Milwaukee county, and increases public awareness for people in the county. Olson spent much time working at this association, where d he contributed work and energy to help the county.

St. Robert has been fortunate enough to also be a recipient of his time. Mr. David Olson has always had a passion for gardening and landscaping as he stated, “I have always been interested in landscaping. I always did it with my parents at my home in Minneapolis as a child.” He remembers the first time he saw St. Robert, the whole front parkway on capital was asphalt. There were no trees, grass, or bushes. He realized he wanted to help revamp this area and began volunteering in the summer of 1983. He also got a group of people together from the village of Shorewood to come help him with the landscaping. The village was nice enough to provide them with trees and dirt, and they brought their machinery to help unload the items. The volunteers then had the task to design the landscape and choose where each tree and bush was to be placed. He kept volunteering, and by the year 1989, he could be found at St. Robert working 3-4 days a week.

Virtually every plant, tree, or bush you spot on the lawn of St. Robert was placed there with the help of Mr. Olson. He stated, “There are roughly 750 bushes around the school, and I designed and planted all of those with lots of help.” One of his bigger projects was designing Mary’s garden, which is on the east side of the church. He said that Father Dennis had been encouraging him to do something with the open space in that garden for quite some time. He got his inspiration when on a trip to California, where he saw a rose garden he liked. He decided to try the same idea with Mary’s garden, and he planted many roses. However, for some reason the roses kept dying, and they were using up too much money replacing them so frequently. Eventually, they put in perennial flowers such as day lilies, and that is what you would find if you were to enter into the garden today.

Mr. David Olson was one of the key factors in the landscaping at St. Robert, but he wants everyone to know that he did not work alone. There were countless others who took time out of their day to come and help him, and there is one individual who especially stood out: Mr. Jerry Davis. Jerry Davis volunteered with Mr. Olson for 15 years, and they completed many big projects, such as Mary’s garden together. Jerry Davis began volunteering in the year 2000 and stopped at the end of 2015. Mr. Olson talked about Jerry by stating, “He was a hard worker and he was very dedicated. He had a good sense of humor and worked as hard as I did.” Mr. Olson wanted to recognize this man because he was someone who shared the same passion for landscaping, and he also dedicated 15 years of service to the St. Robert community. Mr. Olson also wanted to recognize a woman named Margaret Sankovitz. She was also a volunteer who worked at St. Robert for a number of years. Mr. Olson also mentioned that, “She always inspired me to work hard and she was so encouraging.”

All in all, Mr. Olson has left an everlasting impact on St. Robert. He and many others took time out of their weekends, summers, and free days to come to school and do yard work and planting. It is amazing to see how people could turn something that was entirely asphalt into the green lawn and flourishing garden we see at St. Robert today. Mr. Olson states, “I think stepping back after the fact and looking at the work that Jerry and I did was the most rewarding thing about landscaping.” This shows that with support and dedication, anything can be achieved. We should all take more time to recognize those who do the little things to make our school the place that it is today. We can only hope that more people will become inspired by these workers and offer their free time to help out at St. Robert. Not only St. Robert, but the whole community of Shorewood benefits from the work of amazing and dedicated people like Mr. Jerry Davis, Mrs. Margaret Sankovitz, and Mr. David Olson.

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