You never know where a simple question might lead.
One day, Habitat for Humanity ReStore staff member Mark was helping a customer, Rebecca, load a cart full of light fixtures into her car. Curious, he asked about her plan for the lights. She explained that it was a hobby of hers to repurpose old chandeliers and other fixtures into solar lights for her garden. Later, she told us more about how it all started.
United by a love of gardening and the outdoors, Rebecca and Francis Carr were best friends for over 20 years, married for eight.
When they met, she was just finishing a stint as president of the Federated Garden Club. He liked her and was captivated by the idea of perennials, flowers blooming every year. “From that moment, he was into it hook, line and sinker,” says Rebecca. “Until then, he had only planted annuals.”
Gardening together on a piece of land he owned in Iowa, they planted wildflowers and when they couldn’t work outdoors, they spent time selecting different combinations to plant.
Both enjoyed golf and baseball and liked to incorporate a visit to major league baseball diamonds whenever they travelled.
An educator, Francis spent 38 years with Westside Community Schools, retiring as Director of Elementary Education.
When health problems made it impossible for him to continue working the garden they decided to “bring the indoors outdoors” by repurposing light fixtures for gardens. After finding chandeliers and lamps at various locations, including Omaha’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Rebecca would set up a tarp in the living room and work while Francis read aloud to her. “It must have been the educator in him,” she says.
He read anything and everything from the newspaper to books, all the while keeping an eye on her progress, sometimes commenting on what she was doing. “He knew it made me happy. It became our project and kept him engaged because it was something we could do together.”
She retired from First Data and their plans quickly changed in November 2015 when Francis was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and passed away three months later. Looking back over the last two decades, she appreciates what they had together. “Sometimes people look back with regret, but we had a good life,” she says.
She continues setting up her tarp and tools on the living room carpet, and sells her solar lights at craft fairs. Last October, she shared their project by teaching a Ladies Nite Out class at Omaha’s Habitat ReStore, helping others see the potential in those old light fixtures.