Lifelong Marion residents, Tom and Cheryl Bell, are champions for conservation of butterflies and their natural habitat. One product of the Bells’ passion is a wondrous, educational attraction in Marion. The couple brought the Butterfly Garden to the Meadow of the Gardens of Matter Park in 2015. Former Gardens Director, Doug Darga, sought their ideas and visions for the Meadow in 2014, and there was no question the Butterfly Garden would serve as a feature, but mainly serve as a pollinator garden for Monarchs and other species of butterflies. The Bells work each day, morning and evening, as volunteers in the Gardens of Matter Park. They raise and release butterflies for all to witness while partnering in migration research with the University of Kansas. Cheryl has booked experts to speak for the Garden Education Series, and the Butterfly Garden has been used as a blueprint for other communities.
Cheryl explained, “We wanted to make something exciting for families by bringing something special to our hometown. The Butterfly Garden is exciting for kids, and adults turn into kids in amazement of the treasures found here.”
Tom added, “It fills me with pride to see people enjoying the Gardens and Riverwalk.”
The Bells help conservation groups in restoring wetlands at the Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva, IN, assisting with harvesting seeds to preserve the prairie at Kankakee Sands Nature Conservancy in Northwest Indiana, and helping to maintain Ouabache State Park in Bluffton.
Tom and Cheryl are both Indiana Master Naturalists through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Tom a 50-year veteran employee at GM as a die maker, and uses architectural skills from Ball State University for projects including the design of the Butterfly Garden. Cheryl retired from teaching Hula dancing after 23 years. She performed and even organized and helped teach the Polynesian dance all over the country while making Marion a prominent location for several years before the program grew and moved to Indianapolis.
Cheryl has been active with the Garden Club of Marion since 2010, having served as President for five years, leading the team to win seven state awards and three national awards.
The Bells are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year (2019).