Indiana State University Newsroom

Volunteer’s legacy celebrated at Indiana State’s Community Garden

October 6, 2015

Annette Benefiel was one of the first gardeners to sign up for a plot at Indiana State University's Community Garden back in 2006. Nearly 10 years later, loved ones say the late master gardener's enthusiasm, hard work and dedication won't soon be forgotten.

"At a meeting in July with all of the gardeners, I introduced (Annette) as my ‘left hand man' because she did everything (for the garden)," said Patti Weaver, garden manager.

Annette passed away on July 21 at the age of 58. Family, friends, fellow gardeners and coworkers gathered to enjoy a potluck lunch, listen to her favorite music, and swap stories about their time with her.

Laughs, smiles and a few tears filled the garden for the better part of the afternoon.

"She could put a toothpick in the ground and grow a tree," said Annette's father, Jack Yatsko.

Annette was a bronze master gardener along with her twin sister, Anita Criss, and good friend, Yvonne Russell. The three went through the training together, which consisted of a 12-week course that met once a week for three hours. The trio also volunteered in the community for more than 200 hours each.

Among the garden family, Annette was also known for her unique artwork. Peppered throughout many different plots you can find glassware repurposed into something beautiful.

Annette's family finished her last project, which adorns the side of the equipment shed. Using garden hoses as flower stems and colored plates as buds, a memorial flower garden is depicted.

"The garden was her sanctuary," said Jack Benefiel, Annette's son.

The Community Garden at Indiana State offers free garden plots. Tools, water and sometimes seeds are also available to the gardeners free of charge. Gardeners are required to donate 10 percent of their produce to local charity throughout Terre Haute.

After Annette's passing, gardeners in the community cut flowers from their plots for an arrangement at her service. The funeral procession also drove by the garden on the way to her final resting place.

And her memory will live on after Saturday's gathering, as $1,600 has been donated in her honor. It is the biggest donation the garden has received to date.

Along with a contribution from Lowe's at the time of the purchase, the family used a portion of the donation to buy a tiller. It's specially designed to maneuver through the small plots and will make the garden more accessible for all gardeners.

"I always thought that if there were some kids or somebody that wants to be a master gardener but cannot afford the $100 fee, that's where I would like the money to go to," said Jack Benefiel. "If they want to put the work in and enjoy it as much as my mom, that is where I would want the money to go to."

Annette's family described her personality as larger-than-life, that she had a servant's heart and an artistic flair for life. She was always thinking of others and jumped at any opportunity to help her friends, whom quickly became her family, they said. Annette will be hard to forget around the garden, friends say, but the contributions and generosity of others will create an everlasting legacy among this community.

To sign up for a garden plot, go to the Events and Programs section on the Center of Community Engagement's website at

-30- - Michele Barney, Annette Benefiel's sister, gives a speech dedicating the memorial plaque in her honor Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Indiana State University's Community Garden. (Indiana State University Photography Services) - The memorial plaque in honor of Annette Benefiel is seen Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Indiana State University's Community Garden. (Indiana State University Photography Services) - Family and friends enjoy a potluck lunch and swap stories about Annette Benefiel at a garden party Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Indiana State University's Community Garden. (Indiana State University Photography Services)

Media Contact and Writer: Mallory Eherenman, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or