My addiction to water gardening began back in 2000 when a local Aquascape supplier, Hedberg Supply, had their annual pond tour. From that year to the fall of 2007, I accumulated many pictures and articles of other homeowners’ water features to help in planning for my own pond someday.
One of the unique things I liked about our local pond tour, other than the many unique and varied sites, was that they donated all the proceeds to children’s cancer research. Every year, they put together a very in-depth, colored program with all the sites photographed and very detailed descriptions. It also included articles about kids with cancer, various statistics and cure rates for childhood cancer. Since my sister Jill was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at nine years old, I thought that this would be a great way to support her and build my dream water garden at the same time.
Jill had been in remission for many years, but she started to have several issues after years of radiation and chemotherapy. In one of her many follow-up doctor’s visits, they discovered that she had a tumor on the inside of her heart, and it needed to be removed. This required a special procedure, but as it was a very rare and delicate condition, very few surgeons had performed it. At that time, my sister’s fellow co-workers put their heads together and scoured the internet to learn more about the procedure to try and find a surgeon qualified to do it.
After much searching, her co-workers and our family found a surgeon in Houston who had performed a couple of similar procedures. With a lot of support and many prayers, she underwent the surgery, and it was a success. Several years passed, and we were able to take in many more family vacations and pond tours together.
In 2006, my sister came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for quite some time. During this time, she started to have trouble breathing and lost a lot of strength. After many tests, pokes and pricks, they found her heart to be very fibrous (or “woody,” as the doctor called it) instead of soft and pliable like a healthy heart would be. The doctors told us that she would need a heart transplant, and she was put on a waiting list. Weeks and months went by, and then on Memorial Day 2007, Jill received her new heart. Jill and our family were blessed yet again — Jill was given more time with us, her husband and their little girl Ashley, who was 7 at the time.
Meanwhile, I continued planning my water feature, while trying to convince my wife that taking up half of our yard with a pond was a great idea. Finally, late that summer, I had her sold on the idea of a pond in our backyard. Let the digging begin!
Jill eventually came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. No one could have asked for a better Christmas gift! She still needed home care, which our mother, her husband and other family members provided over the next year.
My goal was to get back to working on my pond early in the spring. As it was to be in honor of Jill’s strength and fight to live. I wanted to get it ready to run so I could have a picnic on Memorial Day weekend to jointly celebrate Jill’s one year anniversary of having her new heart and the startup of our new pond.
I unfortunately didn’t make that goal due to a lousy spring, but by the middle of July, I was able to have that picnic. That day, my dad pushed my sister’s wheelchair around the corner of our house so that she could see the pond and waterfall created in her honor.
My dad, with tears in his eyes, stopped as he pushed her to the pond. He turned to me and said, “Son, I am sure proud of you!” He then pushed my sister up onto the patio, where we all sat by the water feature, counted our blessings and enjoyed the fruits of our labor for the rest of the day. This was a wonderful day to be a water feature enthusiast and builder!
Sadly, Jill passed away on New Year’s Eve 2008 at the age of 36. Our pond now serves as a living memorial to her.
Jeff Graupmann started in the industry by building his own water feature back in 2007. In 2008, his hobby turned into a part-time business, building water features part-time on the weekends, and even taking vacation time from his full-time job in order to put his daughters through college. He founded Rock-N-Water Landscapes in 2017 after a layoff, when he started building water features full-time.
Rock-N-Water Landscapes LLC