By Juliette Coulter
From a chance meeting in an algebra class at Fort Worth’s Texas Wesleyan College, Mary and Jerry Chandler have enjoyed the fun they have had together. Now they take pleasure in adding to the volunteer hours they have given as this year’s Dallas Blooms festival chairs. So far, they have racked up 2,150 hours since they started volunteering in 2012.
“I asked her to go with me to my 21st birthday party. She said yes, and we just celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary,” Jerry said.
Originally from Fort Worth, the couple moved to Austin for work, though they often visited their daughter, Kaycie, who introduced them to the Dallas Arboretum. Mary said:
“Every time we would come to Dallas for a visit, we would go to the Arboretum with our grandsons. It didn’t take long for us to buy a membership; if you come twice a year, it pays to get a membership.”
Always making people smile, Jerry jokes that he’s from a small west Texas town named Fort Worth. It’s fitting that his favorite memory that makes him smile is of “our grandsons rolling down the hill behind the Camp House.”
In 2012, the couple moved back from Austin to Old Lake Highlands because it is close to the garden. “We like to pretend it’s our backyard,” Jerry said. “It was a respite during the pandemic as we walked the grounds often, probably a 100 times because it’s so pretty.”
A retired professional real estate inspector, Jerry began volunteering at the Arboretum in 2012 with Mary. “She volunteered me,” he joked. Jerry drives the trams, trains other tram drivers, works as a garden guide and in the information booth and during special events.
A retired public school teacher, Mary taught kindergarten and special education. When she retired, she briefly worked as an activity director for a retirement community.
Combining these two interests, she started volunteering for the Dallas Arboretum by taking gardening activities to local retirement communities. She also helps out in the Hoffman Family Gift Store, serves as a garden host and worked in the Christmas Village.
Currently, she teaches three-year-old children part-time at Highland Park Methodist Day School and uses her love of plants and insects to explain concepts such as metamorphosis.
“My favorite time was when we started volunteering during the Chihuly exhibit and sharing this remarkable garden with visitors. I also love introducing my friends and out-of-town guests to the Dallas Arboretum.”
She added: “During Dallas Blooms, the garden is magnificent with thousands of tulips. When our grandsons were babies, they had photos taken with the tulips, and we look at that (photo) often. It’s a fun place for the whole family. It’s a beautiful place and setting, and you can relax and be in the moment. The beauty speaks to you.”
Jerry added: “The garden changes seasonally, and you don’t want to miss Dallas Blooms. The tulips bloom in waves, then the cherry blossoms, and finally the azaleas.”
As to why visitors should come, Jerry said: “The Dallas Arboretum is a refuge, a sanctuary, a place to go and wander and wonder, especially during this time. It’s a place where you can pause, recharge and renew.”
The Chandlers invite everyone to visit Dallas Arboretum’s Dallas Blooms, the largest floral festival in the Southwest, now through Apr. 11. Presented by IBERIABANK/First Horizon, the festival has a theme of “America the Beautiful.” The spring festival showcases an explosion of color from 100 varieties of spring bulbs and more than 500,000 spring-blooming blossoms, thousands of azaleas and hundreds of Japanese cherry trees. Each week, Dallas Blooms focuses on one of the six regions in the United States with food, music, flowers and special events.
Timed tickets are required and can be purchased online at dallasarboretum.org or by calling 214-515-6615. No walk-ups are available for purchase. Masks are also required for the duration of the visit. For the latest information, visit dallasarboretum.org/blooms.