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Veteran Master Gardeners inspire other members

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Nov. 7, 2011 at 5:07 a.m.

Veteran Cliff Knezek is a  Victoria Master Gardener celebrating his 90th birthday recently. Thursday is a work day at the educational gardens where Knezek volunteers.

Veteran Cliff Knezek is a Victoria Master Gardener celebrating his 90th birthday recently. Thursday is a work day at the educational gardens where Knezek volunteers.

Ed Gregurek stood at the edge of the cement pond and clapped his hands.

In the water below, large koi churned at the surface mouths agape, ready for feeding time.

Feeding the fish is one of Gregurek's duties at the Victoria County Master Gardeners educational gardens near the Victoria Regional Airport.

Gregurek has been a member of the association since 1997.

"I've been involved in gardening all my life," Gregurek said. "When I lived in the country, born and reared, gardening was part of the life."

Gregurek heard about the Master Gardeners Association when it was in its infancy and joined.

"It's very educational. You learn a lot. And there's a lot of camaraderie," he said.

Another venerable Master Gardener, Cliff Knezek, also tends to assigned duties at the educational gardens.

Knezek, 90, has been a member of the Association since 2006.

Urged by friends to get involved, Knezek was reluctant at first.

"I said I wasn't a gardener, but I decided I would try it, and if I didn't like it, I would quit," he said. "The longer I stayed, the more I liked it."

"I love working with the plants," he added. "If I break off a stem, I don't throw it away. I put it in a pot and try to get it to grow again."

Both men are military veterans and have taken a special interest in the ongoing paver project. Military Honor Garden pavers can be purchased through Saturday for $25.

Knezek, who worked for 46 years as an engineering technician for a commercial testing laboratory and retired as vice-chairman of the company's board in 1986, served in the U.S. Air Force.

He worked as a supply sergeant during World War II with tours of duty in China, Burma and India.

Gregurek, who was a pharmacist in Victoria from 1953 to 1996, initially worked as a medic in the U.S. Army, seeing duty in Okinawa before becoming a remains identification technician in Manila.

Both men are special members of the Master Gardeners Association, said Brynn Lee, volunteer coordinator.

"Ed is our multipurpose carpenter," Lee said, noting Gregurek has constructed many of the structures in the educational gardens. "He has also worked on the water pipe systems and dug ditches. He does a lot of the heavy maintenance."

Lee said Knezek will be honored soon with a special paver bearing his name.

"He's very dedicated and a big supporter, both hands on and financially," Lee said. "He is inspirational to a lot of us."

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