Life’s simplest things can make you the happiest. Hearing birds sing outside your window. Strolling through the garden in spring. Finding a comfy bench under a shade tree. The warmth of a quilt in the winter.
Two Butterfield residents are going to great lengths to ensure that their friends, neighbors and the community enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Ardith and Richard Wharry take pride in making the Village the best it can be. Between the two, the Wharrys are actively gardening, birding, crafting, woodworking and volunteering at Butterfield.
The Wharrys are skilled craftsmen. Ardith is an avid quilter who shares her love of the craft with other BTV residents and leads a quilt drive for the homeless in Northwest Arkansas each year.
Richard is a talented woodworker who just finished his biggest project at BTV to date. He’s a recycling volunteer and maintains the bluebird houses on campus, inspecting, repairing and building new ones as needed.
Whether it’s digging in clay to plant a Sensory Garden for BTV residents with memory loss, or surprising their neighbors with gifts fresh from the garden, the Wharrys have a heart for helping others and a strong sense of community.
“Just look around,” Richard said during a recent walk around campus. “This is our home. These projects are an extension of our home, and that is something we can be proud of.”
QUILTED WITH CARE
Ardith is a master quilter. One look at the rich colors, immaculate detail and overall splendor of her quilts and it’s strikingly clear: these designs are not only useful crafts, they are works of art.
Ardith’s quilts have won Best of Show and other championship awards, and she’s judged quilting competitions before.
She started quilting in 1988 as a diversion from medical treatments she was undergoing. She quickly became hooked on the rich rewards of the craft.
“It didn’t take long to realize that this was a whole other world to explore – how the colors go together; which fabrics are ideal for quilting; how to create
the patterns I saw; and what each represented,” Ardith said.
She began giving private lessons and teaching classes and workshops. Some of her presentations include a historical or cultural context: Quilts and Quilting of the ‘30s references pop culture of the era, while Peace of Quilts shares how quilters have shown peace and comfort through their work.
Ardith has taught classes on how to conserve and repair antique quilts. She also formed a group of BTV quilters who come together each year to sew sleeping bags for the homeless. The BTV Ugly Sleeping Bag Program makes and donates sleeping bags to the 7 Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville.
“When I get enough material, I schedule a space and let the others know when it’s available,” Ardith said. “Those who can come do, and we tie and sew. It’s a good thing to do.”
In 2018, BTV residents donated 35 sleeping bags to 7 Hills through the program.
Ardith has found that quilting groups can be vehicles for forming friendships. Some of the quilters she met many years ago are among her most enduring friends.
“Quilters are friendly folks,” Ardith said. “We share practical advice as well as spur each other on to continue to try new things. Some of us find hand quilting to be relaxing, while others like the machine quilting aspect. All of us find quilting to be good therapy.”
WORTH THE EFFORT
Ardith and Richard both grew up in the Midwest and were raised with strong work ethics.
An Oklahoma native, Richard followed in his father’s footsteps when he joined the Rock Island Railroad at age 18. As a signal maintainer, he was assigned to test, inspect, adjust and repair about 40 miles of track across Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico.
He was promoted several times – to Division Supervisor of Signals and Communications for the Illinois West Division and the Missouri-Kansas Division – before joining the Federal Railroad Administration in 1977. There, he served for a time on the headquarters staff in Washington, D.C., before transferring in 1985 to Fort Worth, Texas, to be closer to his sons, David and Stephen. There he served as a Signal and Train Control Training Specialist with nationwide responsibility and a S&TC Regional Specialist until 1997 when he retired to Bella Vista.
Ardith grew up in LaSalle, Ill., in a family of six who grew/raised nearly every bit of their own food. Her father, a history teacher, was what would be considered today a subsistence farmer.
Blackburn College, where Ardith earned a degree in Education, was (and still is) one of the few workplace colleges in the U.S. Ardith went on to earn a master’s degree in special education at Northern Illinois University, and taught special education for 10 years.
“Growing up, I was always in a position to teach others,” she said. “My (younger) sister, our neighbors’ children. Teaching was a profession that came naturally to me.”
Ardith and her first husband, Earl Winters, retired to Bella Vista in 1990. Prior to Earl’s death in 2004 he and Ardith attended the same church that Richard and his first wife, Carolyn, did – Highlands Methodist in Bella Vista. Carolyn Wharry passed away in 2005.
Later, Ardith was working in a position she accepted as the church’s Director of Ministry Care when she noticed that Richard seemed especially lonesome. She decided to reach out and invite him to play golf.
“We probably did as much talking as hitting the ball that day,” Ardith said. “I would go over on Friday afternoons to improve my game. Honestly, I don’t think he even noticed how poorly I played.”
What Richard did notice was how naturally the ministry care role came to Ardith, who intuitively recognized the needs of congregation and offered support and guidance.
“You had to be everybody’s cheerleader in that role,” Richard said. “And Ardith is a wonderful cheerleader.”
GIFTS FROM THE GARDEN
A few years after they were married in 2006, Ardith and Richard began considering transitioning to a retirement community. They did their homework and even visited prospects out of state. Once they learned about Butterfield and its Life Plan services, the choice was clear: The Wharrys moved to Butterfield in August 2009.
In no time, Richard became a regular in the BTV Wood Working Shop. He’s built a number of items for the Village, like storage shelves for stock rooms, cabinets used when the Commons Center was under construction, and a hostess podium for the BTV Dining Room.
Last fall, he took on his largest BTV project yet: remodeling all of the wooden garden benches on campus. For residents, the benches are the perfect go-to spots to connect with nature, feel the warmth of the sun, or just relax in one of the courtyards.
Richard spent dozens of hours sanding, replacing wood, varnishing and reassembling parts. In the end, he restored 12 garden benches.
“I’ve always been able to build things out of wood,” he said. “And a project to keep my mind busy and hands occupied is one way I keep myself mentally and physically healthy.”
As if this all wasn’t enough, the Wharrys both tend to Village gardens. Ardith is one of the residents who developed the Sensory Garden at the Special Care Center – and who continues to maintain it on a regular basis.
The Sensory Garden is designed to maximize cognitive and physical abilities for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s by stimulating their senses. Special Care residents love to soak up the peace and sheer beauty that the Sensory Garden emits – but anyone can enjoy it.
At the Sensory Garden, Ardith and the others have planted mostly perennials so there will be some color all season.
“We purposefully added plants that appeal to the senses,” she said. “Fragrant plants, wispy ones that blow easily in the wind, and ones that are soft to the touch.”
“Building the garden in clay and rocks definitely tests one’s determination,” she added. “But it’s a gratifying feeling to see a project grow into something so beautiful.”
Richard focuses on the BTV vegetable garden. He grows a variety of fresh produce like onions, corn, cucumbers, sweet peppers, beets, carrots and green beans.
Tending to a garden takes time and energy, but to Richard, it’s worth the effort. Often, he donates produce to the BTV Farmers Market to share with others.
Sometimes the generosity extends to the Wharrys’ friends and neighbors in a mysterious fashion. Residents report that bags of fresh cucumbers, sweet pepper or green beans will “magically” appear on their doorstep or in their garage.
So take note, Village vegetable lovers. If Richard Wharry knocks on your door during growing season, let him in. Chances are he’s bearing gifts from the garden.