Don Jaquish: Wisconsin Husband Plants Four And A Half Miles Of Sunflowers In Memory Of Dead Wife

A husband in Wisconsin has paid tribute to the memory of his late wife in the most extraordinary way.

Meet Don Jaquish, a 65-year-old farmer from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, who planted nearly 400 acres of sunflowers in the memory of his late wife, Babbette, who succumbed to cancer last November after eight years of struggle.

According to ABC News, it took Don — who plans to sell the sunflower seeds and donate a hefty portion of the proceeds to hospitals for cancer research — a week to plant the sunflowers that now majestically line Wisconsin State Road 85. Don says the sunflowers remind him of Babbette.

“She’s always loved flowers, but sunflowers were her favorite. They fit her personality. She’d walk into a room and her smile would light up a whole room.”

Babbette Jaquish, pictured here in 2011, passed away last November.
Babbette Jaquish, pictured here in 2011, passed away last November. (Photo: ABC News)

The tribute stretches five farms, meaning not all the land that Don Jaquish used for planting the seeds were his. Surprisingly, when Don asked his neighbors if he could use their land, they opened up, telling Don to pay whatever rent seemed fair.

“They all loved her. There wasn’t anyone that ever met her that didn’t love her.”

It took about 75 days for the sunflowers to fully bloom, since Don planted the seeds in June, and now Highway 85 — which has always been a pretty drive — makes for a breathtaking landscape.

“She got to be known as the sunflower lady of the community. So after she passed away, I thought it would be a tribute to her to plant 4.5 miles of sunflowers on each side of Highway 85.”

Wisconsin farmer Don Jaquish plants four miles of sunflowers in memory of late wife.
Part of the nearly four and a half miles of sunflowers planted by Don Jaquish. (Photo: ABC News)

The visitors on the highway, and indeed, Don’s own family, have been left astounded by his tribute. Speaking to Kare 11, Don’s stepdaughter, Jill Schoen, underlined the pride she feels when talking about her dad’s tribute. “It’s a ‘wow’ when you see it,” she said.

Jenny White, one of Babbette’s daughters, said she was simply overwhelmed with the scale of Don’s achievement.

“I couldn’t fathom until I saw how beautiful it was. There’s 4.5 miles of sunflowers, and it’s an enormous, beautiful sight. And that’s just like my mom. That’s what she did with her life.”

Don Jaquish, an Eau Claire cash grain farmer since 1972, had known Babbette for some time before they eventually decided to marry in 2000. For both of them, it was their second marriage. After Babbette was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2006, the two of them together planted several acres of sunflowers around their property. A few years later, Babbette had the idea of raising sunflowers and selling their seeds to benefit cancer research.

One month after Babbette Jaquish passed away, Don and Babbette’s daughter, Jenny White, made her dream come true by starting a company, Babbette’s Seeds of Hope.

Babbette’s Seeds of Hope will soon be available for purchase, and Don Jacquish said a portion from each 25-pound bag that is sold will go towards cancer research. He also added that he will keep planting the sunflowers every year in his wife’s tribute.

“I hope that eventually we can find a cure for cancer, so other families don’t have to go through what we have.”

[Photo via ABC News]