To a degree, Bro. Kevin Diederich, SVD has come full circle.
Born in a small town in Northeastern Missouri, and educated at Techny, Bro. Kevin spent 25 years working in the SVD missions located in the bush country of Papua New Guinea. But before
|Bro. Kevin Diederich, SVD
taking his final vows in 1967 and embarking on that overseas journey, he spent two years planting the first trees and shrubs that today surround the buildings at Divine Word College. Now he has returned, and among his duties is to replace some of those very trees and shrubs.
While he was there in the 1950s and early ‘60s,Techny—the headquarters for the North American Province of the SVD—contained a nursery, which was used to raise funds for the mission houses and the seminary.
“That’s where I worked. That’s how I got sent out here to landscape the new college,” Bro. Kevin said. It was 1965. For the next two years, he worked with Brother Henry Oeser, SVD, who was the engineer for the main building construction, and Bro. Bill Krick, SVD, who oversaw the entire project.
Bro. Kevin’s role was to do the landscaping. Hard work in the day when plants were dug by hand, with the roots and soil shaped into a ball, and wrapped with burlap. This heavy mass was hauled out of the ground by hand and then transported.
“Most of the trees, evergreens and shrubs came from Techny itself, from our nursery there,” Bro. Kevin said, noting that before the project began, there wasn’t a single bush around the entire building. “We’d take a truck there and dig all this stuff, load up and get back the same day, then plant and go back again. It was quite a job. “
Then came his final vows and assignment to Papua New Guinea. Fast-forward 25 years to his return to the US. After stints in parishes in the East, he spent time here before being called to the SVD residence at East Troy, Wisconsin. Now he has again returned to DWC to work on the grounds.
Two major storms in recent years left their mark. Some 30 trees were downed and around 65 to 70 were damaged. After the second storm, it looked like a tornado went through.
“It was kind of Nature’s way of cleaning it up. The trees would come down anyway, sooner or later,” Bro. Kevin said. “It actually helped out. It opened up the area and let sunlight in.”
In other places, it’s more a case of replacing aging plant stock. Flowering crab trees—whose branches load up with white blossoms each spring—will need attention.
“There’s always a need for continual replanting,” he said. How appropriate that he is the man to return to do the work.