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Marvin's Gardens: Winsted man facing terminal cancer takes one season at a time
Aug. 18, 2014

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Marvin Gueningsman knows that in all likelihood, this will be the last harvest he reaps from his garden at Linden Wood Apartments in Winsted.

“I might make it through the winter; I might not,” he says in a soft voice.

Gueningsman has been dealing with throat problems for the past 10 years, and is now battling an advanced stage of cancer. He is unable to swallow anything – even his own saliva – and he subsists solely through a feeding tube.

Dire health issues haven’t stopped Gueningsman from making the most of his summer, however.

“Typically, if you can’t find Marvin, he’s out fishing or he’s in the garden,” said Sarah Grindeland, manager of Linden Wood Apartments and the Garden House, both part of the St. Mary’s Care Center campus.

Gueningsman has had a garden on the Linden Wood property for more than 10 years, growing corn, tomatoes, radishes, beets, watermelon, and more.

“There’s probably not a weed out there,” Grindeland said.

Gueningsman keeps about 10 different shovels and hoes in the trunk of his car nearby.

“They all have a purpose,” he says.

Every spring, Gueningsman and his older brother, Cliff, who lives in Lester Prairie, have a race to see who can finish planting their garden first.

Cliff won this year, but the race is always close.

The ladies at Linden Wood have tried to convince Gueningsman to add flowers to the garden, but he is more interested in practical, edible items. The only flower he plants are sunflowers, and those are to provide food for birds.

“I planted a red flower out there this year, as a trick on him,” Grindeland said.

Gueningsman purchases all his own seeds, and donates everything he grows to others at Linden Wood.

Rabbits also look forward to the tasty fresh vegetables each summer.

“They eat anything that’s green,” Gueningsman said. “They’re not fussy.”

Gardening is a natural hobby for Gueningsman, who used to live on a farm near New Germany with his wife, Joan. They raised cows, horses, pigs, peacocks, buffalo, and more.

The couple shared 42 years of marriage before cancer claimed Joan’s life in 2002. Today, their son, Tony, and daughter-in-law, Pat, live just outside of Winsted, and have two adult children of their own.

Gueningsman is well known at his home in Linden Wood, with many friends who appreciate his positive attitude, kind spirit, and of course, his bountiful garden harvest.

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