If you’ve walked along the River’s Edge Trail at any point, you’ve likely passed a memorial for Gerald and Loretta Korst, with a plaque that reads “Daddy’s Garden." It’s located under the Central Avenue Bridge near the Missouri River Federal Courthouse.
Recently it was adorned with a rose bush, pieces of driftwood, and a prized bird bath that used to sit in the Korst’s backyard.
"We used to take my mom for walks down here in her wheelchair during the summer of COVID-19 and one day we walked underneath the bridge. And when we came around the corner, she saw this little spot, and she just thought it was beautiful,” said Mary Geer, Gerald and Loretta’s daughter. “Shortly after that, she passed away. So, I decided to proceed with that. And I called the city and talked to somebody down there, and they said I could do a memorial down here."
The family went about creating a little garden underneath the Central Avenue Bridge.
Brett Korst, the grandson of Gerald and Loretta, placed the bird bath on a concrete slab and landscaped the alcove with his son and daughter.
"We've always been a close family. So it was a good deal and something that brought us closer,” Brett said. “That's the way my family's always been.”
Mary regularly tended the garden last summer and was thanked by passersby for making something so beautiful.
But on Monday, with the nicer weather, Mary went to visit the garden, and saw that the bird bath was snapped off its base and missing, the rose tree had been dug out and discarded, and the driftwood that lined the garden was nowhere to be found.
"I was brokenhearted,” Mary said. "It broke my heart that somebody would do that when we’re trying to make the space down here beautiful for everybody with some good memories.”
The family wants to get the word out about the vandalism in case anyone knows who vandalized their garden, or if it’s possible to locate the missing bird bath.
“I keep asking myself why, what’s the point,” Brett said. “It meant so much to us."
The Korst family knows they might never know who destroyed their garden. But they plan to rebuild it better than before, so that everyone in Great Falls can enjoy a piece of their parents' lives, for generations to come.
"I think all of us kind of felt violated,” said Trina Rogers, another Korst daughter. “We all participated in coming together to make this. And I think we will come together to rebuild it and make something that is enjoyable, that my parents will look down and say, they're doing exactly what we would want them to do. This won't stop us."
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