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Victoria woman finds solace at Memorial Rose Garden

By BY Bianca R. Montes - BMONTES@VICAD.COM
Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

The Victoria Memorial Rose Garden opened in 1980 and is home to more than 100 varieties of roses and 1,300 rose bushes that are named for deceased and living loved ones.

Victoria Memorial Rose Garden

• WHEN: Open year-round but is busiest between March and July and then again in the fall when the air cools off.

• WHERE: Riverside Park, 476 McCright Drive, Victoria

• CONTACT: 361-485-3200

The Victoria Memorial Rose Garden is a haven of healing for a Victoria woman.

Doris Santeago grew up in Victoria and prides herself on being able to date the city's history back to its founding fathers - if not further.

She lives in the old historic part of downtown and can easily tell new and old friends stories of opera-singing ghosts and where to go to see the richest sunsets.

When Santeago's mother became ill, she took time off from work to care for her, and during that time, she began to have a sharp discomfort in her ankle.

She thought it was arthritis.

It was cancer.

She didn't catch the cancer soon enough, and her leg was amputated, but she said she is thankful for the help she received.

"They couldn't save my leg," she said. "But they saved my life."

With a prosthesis, her goal was to not have a limp. Almost every day, she went to the rose garden to walk around its circular paths.

The Memorial Rose Garden opened in 1980 and is home to more than 100 varieties of roses and 1,300 rose bushes that are named for deceased and living loved ones, said Jackie Yates, Victoria Parks and Recreation landscape crew leader.

The original garden is centered around a white gazebo with roses climbing its wall, Yates said, and two other areas were built in later years, adding a paved section and a water fountain.

"It's a very peaceful place," Santeago said. "Especially around sunset."

What began as a place for Santeago to exercise soon became a solace for her heart.

Santeago also succeeded in her goal - she does not walk with a limp.

Santeago wanted to capture every moment that helped her. After receiving a camera as a gift one year, she began taking pictures of all the beautiful sights she saw.

Today, her iPad is filled with thousands of photos of all of the roses at the garden, including every sunset that captured her eye.

Her favorite rose is a milk chocolate non-fragrant hybrid called koco loco. The reason the rose is loco - or crazy - is because it eventually turns lavender.

Even though the rose doesn't have a scent, Santeago said it's still her favorite.

While some of the hybrid roses do not have much of a smell, the garden also is home to some powerful fragrants such as perfume delight, the Elle tea rose and the Frederic Mistral rose.

"It really got me through some hard times," she said. "Getting there helped me meditate and get closer to God, and he showed me some great things at that garden."

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