Welcome to Wisconsin: Retired couple’s garden greets visitors

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After crossing over the Red Wing Bridge following U.S. Highway 63 to enter into Wisconsin, just across from the Woodshed Bar & Grill is a large sign with a faded brown color from the many winters and weather it's endured.

The sign welcomes people to Wisconsin, even with a catchy tagline that reads "Open for Business."

Underneath that massive sign is a garden. It's well maintained with a variety of colorful flowers that distract from the brown, weathered sign.

How did the plants get there? That's the labor of Pierce County residents Larry and Marlys Thomas, who have worked tirelessly to make this entrance into Wisconsin as beautiful as it can be.

The couple started gardening underneath the sign in 2007, the same year Larry retired from the Pierce County Highway Department.

During his time with the County, Larry would do maintenance from the Wisconsin sign to Prescott, and said the area used to be planted with evergreens. However, the trees began to die out, so the county bought marigolds that Larry planted underneath.

Once retired, Larry decided that he might as well keep up the maintenance; after all he enjoyed his time doing so.

The Diamond Bluff couple has been married for 14 years. Marlys is originally from Plum City and Larry moved to the area in 1958, when he helped construct the Red Wing bridge, the same bridge he sees on a weekly basis.

As an 18-year-old building the bridge, Larry admits he never thought he'd see the day it'd be torn down and rebuilt again.

The Thomases are usually busy plucking weeds, shoeing away critters, and keeping the area beautiful on a weekly basis, dependant on the weather.

With the amount of maintenance required to keep the plants alive and thriving, the Thomases say they are looking to retire from gardening and have a new person or group come in.

"We're getting too old to be coming in and out of here," Larry said.

The couple has been gardening for a long time, mainly focusing on flowers, which led them to their enjoyment in keeping the Wisconsin sign looking gorgeous.

"I just like to drive by and look at the pretty flowers," Larry said.

For those interested in volunteering their time and continuing on with where the Thomases left off, contact Chad Johnson at the Pierce County Highway Department.