Laurence (Larry) Hammond, a resident of Eastcastle Place in Milwaukee, has a green thumb to rival all other green thumbs. Several years ago, he started lending a hand to a fellow resident at the senior living community, with the maintenance of the sprawling garden on campus. “I helped her line up someone different for every day of the week for help with planting, weeding, watering and cultivating and it worked out very well,” he said. “She wanted to spend more time with her husband who was ill, and she told me that I was handling it so well, that she ‘turned’ the garden over to me and said she’d be my assistant.” Those residents who are especially proficient with flowers oversee the breathtaking blooms in the garden, and another has oversight of the herbal portion, whereas Hammond plants and tends to the one-dozen tomato plants. Residents, as well as Eastcastle’s chef, are encouraged to help themselves to the herbs and tomatoes which are reaching their peak now. What is left is distributed to the residents who provide financial contributions to the garden.
Hammond, who moved to Eastcastle Place in 2010, said he’s always enjoyed gardening and was delighted to have the opportunity to pursue his hobby at his new home.
The retired attorney jokes that he can trace his penchant for changing mud holes, back to the 1960’s during which time he had a major role in launching an enormous initiative. As a member of a bar association committee in Milwaukee, Hammond and others were charged by then Mayor Harry Maier, to help found Summerfest, the outdoors event that eventually earned the designation of the World’s Largest Music Festival. After Summerfest’s first several years during which time it was trying to find its role in the community, Hammond recalled, coordinators had the opportunity to secure the Nike missile installation. The site was established along Milwaukee’s lakefront during the Cold War, and housed Ajax and Hercules missiles in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union. The station closed in 1969, and the city purchased it and it became the centralized location for Summerfest. “It was a big mud hole with ammunition dumps in it. It had been pretty much abandoned and was a real mess. We took it over, spent a lot of time and money to cultivate it and get it organized, and it became the permanent home for Summerfest. It’s the biggest event annually in Milwaukee,” he said of the festival which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Hammond, who is 90, said his volunteer experience after his retirement, gave him a unique perspective when looking into retirement communities. “I was a volunteer ombudsman for the state, assigned to represent people in nursing homes and speak out for their rights. I did that for 14 years. I went to a nursing home once a week and got to know a lot of people. I made sure that the care was good and that everyone was treated well. I was a buffer between the nursing home management and the State’s rigid regulations. Most of the stuff that was wrong could be corrected with a word to the right place at the right time, and could keep it from becoming an emergency. It was very fulfilling,” he said.
Years later, when evaluating retirement communities for himself, he said that he immediately liked Eastcastle Place. “It’s beautiful and in a great location, close to where we had our home for 50 years,” he said. “It’s a very friendly place and I have lots of opportunities to keep busy, doing things I enjoy.” This includes, of course, his gardening. “I enjoy gardening and like the residents being able to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of our labor,” Hammond said.