Diane Powelka – Shooting Star

By Joe Powelka

At the fourth quarterly board meeting in New London, Connecticut, last fall, there was someone missing for the first time in 10 years, and I could feel the difference. My wife, Diane, who has been to every board meeting with me since January of 2000, did not attend. I did not feel her quiet presence, and I missed her.

Diane has been actively involved in Wild Ones since 1994, when she and I helped form the Madison (WI) Chapter, for which she later served, successively, as secretary, vice president, and president. She served on the national Wild Ones board from 2000 to 2010. In 2003, she served as the catalyst for the first Wild Ones photography contest at the annual meeting in St. Louis.

While working with the young Madison Chapter we visited the Byron Nature Preserve in northern Illinois, and were inspired by the native-plant walk there, which incorporated numerous educational labels. We thought that something similar would be a great addition to our township, and started formulating plans to create a local native-plant park. The township board approved of the idea, and offered a 7-acre, wooded, former quarry that had, in the past, served as the town dump. We titled the effort Project 2000 (with the crazy idea that we would be fully functional by the year 2000). Simultaneously Diane was heavily involved in our local garden club, serving in various leadership positions. She moved from the local level to the district level, and finally was tapped by the State Garden Club Federation to serve as the recording secretary. During all this time she has been a strong advocate of introducing native plants into our gardens, and continues to serve as the State’s Operation Wildflower Chair. She is currently serving a second term as District Director for the Wisconsin Garden Federation.

Over the years, Diane has, at every opportunity, advocated for native plants, and promoted an environmentally sound approach to gardening. She has worked hard to include youth in her native plant activities. For Project 2000, she obtained several thousand dollars in grants to fund the installation of native plants in the park, and coordinated five Eagle Scout projects. She has involved alternative-education students and youth needing community service credit, creating paths, planting native plants, and cleaning up the park. As a Master Gardener, she has obtained the assistance of other Master Gardeners in working at the park.

I will miss Diane accompanying me to the board meetings in the future, but her dedication to Wild Ones’ mission is unwavering. She has been by my side in my national Wild Ones efforts, supporting and advising. While serving as a national director of Wild Ones, she was not shy about adding her voice to a discussion when she felt strongly about an issue, even when it went against the consensus of the rest of the board.

Her simultaneous involvement with the National Garden Federation and Wild Ones makes her a highly qualified representative of Wild Ones’ ideals to the Federation. With our new marketing plan we are considering broadening our appeal to gardeners and landscapers to educate, integrate, and communicate the importance of native plants in our landscapes. I believe that Diane has more shooting to do as she follows her personal star – native plants.