A New Memorial Pond for a Homeowner Experiencing Loss

By Jeff Jaras

Published on February 6, 2022

Some of my all-time favorite projects at Illinois Water Features are the ones that really tug at your heart strings, which brings me to a project in Plainfield, IL. I received a call from a couple that was looking for a memorial pond to honor their son who passed away. Gigi told me her mother always had a pond and her son found so much happiness relaxing next to the pond, which is why they needed a calming space to reminisce about their son that was taken too soon. I jumped at the opportunity to create a peaceful oasis for this special family. 

What’s the Story? 

It all started with a knock on the door – the neighbor’s door. Hello, I’m Jeff with Illinois Water Features and would you mind if we use your side yard for a stone delivery and access to bring a machine back to start a project next door? Sure, they said, we are moving soon so please don’t ruin the grass. I was very excited because this meant we could stage all our stones just next to the soon to be pond, and it would make for easy strapping and setting stones with our excavator. 

We had to retain about three and a half feet of berm behind the waterfall.

I sprayed the outline for the pond, said goodbye to the customer, jumped in my truck and headed back home. On my way I called Joel Miller with Illinois Brick Company and set up for the delivery of my Mossy Mountain stone. I previously went to Illinois Brick and tagged about 14 tons of beautiful rock to use for the pond, waterfall and retaining wall. I had some pieces that were almost 2 tons, so I was excited for this project.

Pond Construction 

We grabbed all our hand tools consisting of digging shovels, cut shovels, tamper, levels, sawzall, pipe glue, screw drivers, and headed to the backyard. Next, it was time for the pond equipment and the stone delivery showed up! We met them out front to help unload product for the project. We then began to bring back our Aquascape skimmer 1000, biofalls 6000, 3-inch flexible pvc, 32” patio pond (spillway bowl), lights, pump liner, underlayment fabric and rock pad.

I jumped in the excavator and headed to the backyard followed by Moose from Illinois Brick with our first pallet of stone! Moose staged all our stone just outside the back fence, so we didn’t block all our access.

Dave teaching Emmylou how to drink water out of the spillway bowl

This backyard was only about 30 feet to the back of the fence from the patio, so we didn’t have a lot of room for pond building. Next, we had to remove a fence panel surrounding the yard to be able to bring in the machine and retrieve the stone. We made quick work of that and brought in our machine to start the excavation and begin digging! 

The crew and I spent a good portion of the day setting stone on the bottom levels of the pond and compacting the dirt on the berm, where the waterfall would eventually go. Strapping stones and sending them to their new home. The gravel we used on the bottom level of the pond and in the voids between the bigger rocks was 3/4”-1 1/2” Red Flint.

After a few hours, we were about done with the pond and shaping our berm where the waterfall would come back down. I knocked on the back door and brought out the homeowners and they loved the shape. Right before they were about to go back, they asked how much more it would cost to go another foot deeper. I gave them a price they couldn’t pass up and they agreed to take the excavation to 40 inches. We then loaded up our pond liner, called in an order for new liner and received it the next day.

After countless hours of trying to mimic mother nature, we were nearly complete with the pond and started the waterfall/stream. There was one specific rock that caught my attention in the yard that I really wanted to use in the middle of the waterfall to “squeeze” water through. When we set it, I was thrilled! We basically built the rest of the waterfall around that. 

Our friends at Blue Hills Landscaping added plants and mulched everything, and made everything look great!

As I was looking for my next stone to set, I realized we were not going to have enough stone to finish our retaining work around our waterfall. I gave Dave, Nick and Matt some things to do and ran back to Illinois Brick to pick a few other pallets out. It wasn’t till I called Joel to have that shipped out did I realize we were in trouble. He wouldn’t be able to get that to us for a few days. 

Anyway, the show must go on! We continued to work on some details and set a few more key stones until our next stone delivery arrived later that week.

Finally, we installed the spillway bowl and stones around that and started working our way out of the property. Remember how I told you the yard wasn’t very big? We didn’t have much room, so we made our way behind the waterfall and started the retaining work. This part of the project was a little tricky, as we  had to make a slight grade change in the yard. We had to retain about three and a half feet of berm behind the waterfall with not much room until the fence. Plus, the owners needed room for a 36” mower to get through.

Finishing Touches 

For the cherry on top, we built a nice little patio with bluestone that was just big enough for a few chairs so they could sit and enjoy the new paradise their backyard has become. Our friends at Blue Hills Landscaping added plants and mulched everything, and made everything look great!

Viola! Seven days later, this beautiful family now had a stunning new backyard! Instead of the boring grass, they had something that would attract more nature and give them a calming place they could enjoy. I hope it brings back beautiful memories of their son, playing by grandma’s old pond.

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Designer: Illinois Water Features
Installers: Illinois Water Features
Contact: Jeff Jaras 630.935.9251;  illinoiswaterfeatures@gmail.com
Project Location: Plainfield, IL
Size: 16 x 21 ft; 40″ deep. 

Pond Construction & Components: 

  • Aquascape skimmer 1000
  • Biofalls 6000
  • 3-inch flexible PVC
  • Missouri Mossy Mountain Stone
  • Koi fish and native IL fish
  • 5,000 to 9,000 adjustable flow pump

Time to complete: 7 days
Crew: Jeff Jaras, Dave Jaras, Nick Ellis, Matt Goodell
Buyer’s Cost: $34,000

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