‘A better place:’ Memories of Father Nick Landsberger live on through beauty he left behind

Dr. Mark Roerick, center, cared for Father Nick Landsberger, right, and his brother, Father Bob Landsberger left, over the last 20-plus years. (Photos submitted)

Dr. Mark Roerick had the privilege of being Father Nick Landsberger’s chiropractor for the past 21 years until Father Nick passed away in May at the age of 84.

People who knew Father Nick knew that he was an avid gardener.

“He would often share stories of his travels, the people he would stay with and, of course, gardening,” Dr. Mark recalled. “He was very much a green thumb of sorts. At one particular visit in my office, he shared with me that his favorite flower was the amaryllis. He would dig the bulbs up and replant them every year.”

When Dr. Mark paid his last respects to Father Nick at St. Mary’s Cathedral June 2, he met Father Nick’s sister, Rachel Dusha. After sharing stories about him, Dr. Mark inquired about what would happen to the amaryllis bulbs Father Nick had previously dug from the ground.

Rachel directed Dr. Mark to Father Tony Kroll, who lives in the Speltz House in Sauk Rapids, where Father Nick also had lived.

Father Nick Landsberger poses with one of his favorite flowers in his garden.

“I chatted with Father Tony for about 20 minutes, shared with him that I was Father Nick’s chiropractor, enjoyed a few stories and then I left the church,” Mark said.

Four days later, at 6:45 a.m. Dr. Mark’s phone rang.

“When I answered, the voice said, ‘Mark, this is Father Tony Kroll. We spoke at Father Nick’s funeral. Say, I spoke with Nick’s sister Rachel and we think you should come and get these amaryllis bulbs and give them to your patients. They should have been planted about three weeks ago. So can you come get them today?’”

Dr. Mark and his wife, Donna, were out of town at the time but promised to call him as soon as they returned to St. Cloud.

“We met him in the garage at the Speltz House. There in front of Father Nick’s car was a 3-by-8-foot section of bulbs lying on the floor, many of them already sprouting. We carefully boxed them up, visited with Father Tony awhile and drove away. I couldn’t believe the number of bulbs that Father Nick had gathered over the years. And to think, at age 84, he still planted and removed these every year. I thought it would be nice to somehow share these with others in his past parishes that might want to have something to remember him, but I knew these needed to get into dirt soon.”

Dr. Mark immediately contacted Herman Roerick, a close friend who owns a nursery called Central Landscape Supply. He explained the situation and Herman volunteered to open the nursery, where they potted 180 bulbs.

Dr. Mark then connected with St. Mary Parish of Little Falls as well as St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, both parishes where Father Nick had served.

Danny Primus, left, and Kelly Bjork, help Mark Roerick unload Father Nick’s amaryllis bulbs at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“They were both very receptive of the idea of sharing the flowers in memory of Father Nick. I basically told them the story and suggested instead of Doughnut Sunday, how about calling it Amaryllis Sunday?” Dr. Mark said.

On June 12, Dr. Mark and Donna loaded up 60 of the potted plants and delivered them to St. Mary’s Cathedral, where Kelly Bjork and Danny Primus helped unload them.

Primus has worked at the parish for 37 years, 12 of them working with Father Nick. Every year, he would assist Father Nick with some of his gardening and together they would pick out his Christmas tree — something Primus enjoyed then, and again when Father Nick returned to the area in his retirement. Primus took one of the amaryllis bulbs and planted it in a special place at his family’s home.

“I just thought it would be nice to have a personal gift, a little piece of him,” Primus said. “He taught a lot of people about gardening.”

The Roericks then loaded up another 60 bulbs and delivered them to St. Mary’s in Little Falls, where they met with Father Ben Kociemba.

Father Ben Kociemba, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Little Falls, poses for a photo with Donna Roerick and Father Nick’s amaryllis bulbs.

“One of the first things I noticed about the people in the Little Falls area is that they are very close to the land,” Father Kociemba said. “Father Nick had his garden here for 20 years. For people from this community to receive an amaryllis plant as a small way to remember him is a living legacy of his work and his hobbies. He loved Little Falls. It was a second home to him and had a very special place in heart.”

When the Roericks visited Little Falls, Father Ben pointed out some tall pines by the church not far from where Father Nick once had his garden.

“I can’t help but think about how we are only here for a short time and it is our duty to leave this world a better place than when we came into it,” Dr. Mark said. “I think Father Nick did just that, in so many ways.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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