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Lawn of her life: Hancock woman invests in her yard

Betty Gillespie stands near her deck at her home in Hancock. Gillespie decorates her lawn with items that reflect her interest and personality. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times1 / 4
A swing, bird feeders, welcome sign and other items in one area of Betty Gillespie's lawn in Hancock. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times2 / 4
One of the spinning decorations in Betty Gillespie's lawn in Hancock. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times3 / 4
A refurbished chair holds plants on Betty Gillespie's deck. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times4 / 4

Her lawn is so inviting that a couple traveling through town mistook it for a city park.

One day Betty Gillespie was looking out her window from her home on 6th Street in Hancock and she saw a couple sitting on one of her benches eating lunch. Gillespie didn't mind. She had to run an errand and backed her vehicle down the driveway and let the couple eat.

The couple seemed surprised to see Gillespie's vehicle but stayed and apparently finished lunch. Gillespie later learned they had asked about a park at a local convenience store. The couple was directed to the small city park across the street from Gillespie's home.

But Gillespie may be the first to say while her lawn is inviting it's not a park. "It's nothing special," she said.

She and her husband Tom who died in several years ago, took pride in their lawn just as other homeowners did, but in the past several years, Gillespie has found she's expanded on her lawn care.

"I went a little above and beyond, what he would do" Gillespie said. "It's been my therapy. In winter, I can't wait until spring when I can be outside. It's what I like to do."

"I basically just enjoy working on any part of my lawn. I don't have a favorite spot," Gillespie said. "People say to me that it must be a lot of work. When you enjoy something, it's not work."

Gillespie lives in the house she grew up in. But the move to this house happened after the couple had lived in towns in at least three states before moving back to the area. Gillespie has made the home her own with photos of children and grandchildren, other photographs and collectible items. And her lawn is an extension of her home.

Friends and family, and even strangers, can find a bench or chair on which to sit. They may be able to watch the birds feed at one of her multiple feeders or watch a spinning gadget flitter in the wind.

Gillespie said her lawn scenes started "years and years" ago when she and Tom traveled to Brainerd to buy a wooden swing like the ones they'd seen while on vacations. It sits under what Gillespie believes is the biggest evergreen tree in Hancock.

A welcome friends sign sits near the tree swing. "I keep my eyes peeled for things," Gillespie said of signs and other additions to her lawn.

"When I go places, I see things I don't need but think 'wouldn't it be cool..,'" she said. A colorful straight chair holds plants while a few garden gnomes complete a plant scene near her deck are items she's believed would make nice additions to her lawn.

While Gillespie said she has many items in her lawn that nearly fill a storage shed, she does give up items each year. She will place a decoration or sign on the curb to give it away and it's gone before she knows it.

One of the oldest decorative pieces on her lawn is the wagon her children played with. It's been painted red, white and blue and it's filled with flowers.

"Isn't it a shame more people didn't keep old stuff?" Gillespie said while looking at the wagon.

While Gillespie didn't keep many items from her past she finds newer items at garage sales, sales at retail stores and other places. She jokes that her children give her cash as gifts because they know how she will spend it. Signs and other decorations get her attention but so do lights.

"I like lights," Gillespie said. "Everybody knows this as the house of lights," Gillespie said.

She has a light post that resembles an older street light at one end of her deck. Lantern lights hang from some tree branches and other lights are placed about the lawn.

"I do get a lot of (grief) about lights. People say I'm always lit up," Gillespie said with a laugh.

She blames Tomfor her attraction to lights. If he hadn't installed the street lamp post style light on her lawn she wouldn't be so fond of lights.

Many of the lights stay out all year round. Some are electric lights, some are solar lights.

It's not unusual to find Gillespie and friends or family sitting on the deck under the lights in the evening or throughout the day. A neighbor and her young grandson visit regularly, even when Gillespie is not home. The grandson likes to move the spinning decorations on Gillespie's lawn.

While summer makes her lawn flush with green grass and colorful flowers, Gillespie decorates her lawn all year. She is already planning her fall decorations.

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