Gertrude B. Nielsen Children's Garden - A Gift from Gertrude B. Nielsen, 1997 - Aug 15, 2011
by Betty Pearson, Green Bay Botanical Garden Volunteer
Gertrude B. Nielsen Children's Garden - Tree house
When Gertrude B. Nielsen died in 1998 at her home in Winnetka, Illinois, she was 100 years old. Throughout her impressive life, she had gained the reputation of a benevolent philanthropist. For ninety five of her years, she lived by the motto taught to her by her grandmother, “Do something every day to help someone else.” That is precisely what she did. In her adult years, she focused her generosity mostly on children, but liked projects that included her second love, gardening. She was a longtime supporter of the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois.
In 1991, Jerry Krueger held a top level managerial position with the A.C Nielsen Company. Green Bay’s office employed over 300 people. Its headquarters were in a suburb of Chicago. Jerry Krueger began his life-long connection with Green Bay Botanical Garden by joining other Master Gardeners who formed the Plants in an Urban Environment Committee. This group, under Paul Hartman and Bob Mongin’s direction, became the Board of Directors for Green Bay Botanical Garden. Ten years after the group’s inception, Krueger proudly stood with many other volunteers at the official ribbon cutting for the Visitor Center. Following the ceremony, the Board set its direction for designing, sculpting and planting various gardens. The biggest job ahead, however, was to raise money to support and maintain these individual areas.
Jerry had met Nielsen’s widow, Gertrude, on several occasions and learned from a fellow gardener in Illinois that she was partial to miniature plants. He made an appointment to visit with her at her home in Winnetka. He took with him an unusual miniature as a gift and a request for funding Green Bay Botanical Garden’s new Children’s Garden. In 1991, Gertrude Nielsen generously pledged the funds necessary to begin the garden as well as money for a trust fund that would assist in the Garden’s maintenance.
Gertrude Nielsen visited the site of the Children’s Garden soon after groundbreaking and before it took on its personality. Her sons brought her to the Garden and wheeled her through the pre-constructed site while Glenn Spevacek and others on the Board of Directors explained their vision to her. Thanks to the generous gift by Mrs. Nielsen, others were inspired and continue to be inspired to give to the Garden.
Jerry Krueger was active for many years in the Building and Grounds Committee and the Board of Directors and contributed much insight into helping Garden leadership make intelligent, purposeful choices in garden placement and design. Krueger is a self-identified idea man. He appreciates the ideas of others and often comes up with his own creative ways of accomplishing a mission. He retired from the A. C. Nielsen Company in 1998. His warm memory of the elegant and generous Gertrude Nielsen accompanies him each time he visits the Garden. Children who have been to GBBG love this part of their visit the most. School groups use it not only as a respite and play area, but as an outdoor classroom for exploring the Garden’s horticultural treasures.