Last week the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners honored Thomson's own "Flower Lady" Audrey Eller as Senior Citizen of the Year for 2005 for her beautification efforts around town.
Audrey Eller trims roses in the flower bed next to Thomson City Hall.
Photo by Jason B. Smith
Mrs. Eller has been lending her expertise in gardening to Thomson since her retirement from city hall in 1992. The energetic wife, mother and grandmother has taken it upon herself to cultivate flower beds and add touches of color and greenery to a number of areas around town such as the above-ground planters dotting the streets, islands separating traffic, flower beds at city hall and gardens at churches and cemeteries.
"I was completely surprised," said Mrs. Eller of the honor she received last Wednesday after being asked by city administrator Bob Flanders to attend a commission meeting on the revitalization efforts in downtown Thomson. She knew it was more than just a routine meeting when she saw her son sitting among the crowd.
Commission Chairman Charlie Newton detailed some of Mrs. Eller's accomplishments while reading the proclamation.
She was touched, but was too stunned to offer any comments.
"I just cried," Mrs. Eller said.
Since 1993, Mrs. Eller has been working on beautifying the city with flowers, and the downtown area has gone from unadorned expanses of concrete and drying grass to vibrant, colorful beds of perennials, roses and seasonal flowers.
With her trademark broad brimmed straw hat, garden gloves and digging tool, Mrs. Eller has been a fixture around town as she plants, fertilizes, weeds and cares for the numerous beds she has established.
Over the years, her efforts have drawn the attention of city officials, local civic organizations and a host of townspeople and visitors who have recognized her work with awards and with personal notes of thanks.
Mrs. Eller wipes away a tear after she was named the Senior Citizen of the Year last week. Pictured with her are her son, Gary, and husband, Alvin.
Photo by Jason B. Smith
Mrs. Eller is glad to know others enjoy her handiwork, and was especially touched by an anonymous note from years ago, written on a scrap of white paper, that reads, "May you have many blessings. Thank you and God for the care and beauty of the flowers."
Mrs. Eller is sometimes helped in her labors by two Thomson city employees, and has also enjoyed support from local businesses.
Local nurseries, McCorkle Nurseries and Dudley's, have been generous in donating some of their plants and trees to her efforts, she said.
"They have been so kind."
In addition, other businesses like Wal-Mart have donated funds and supported the beautification work.
Mrs. Eller has been recognized in both civic and social organizations, and even had her own day: In 1999 Mayor Bob Knox proclaimed Saturday, June 5, as Audrey Eller Appreciation Day.
"I started this because I just had a desire to do something beautiful (for Thomson)," she said. She remembers thinking, "I could make it better," and she has. Although she says she isn't as young as she used to be, her energy, enthusiasm and talent for landscaping indicates she will continue to serve as Thomson's "Flower Lady" for years to come.