EAU CLAIRE, Wi. - A grieving husband has fulfilled his late wife's wish by planting 4½ miles’ worth of sunflowers.
Don Jaquish, 65, planted the yellow flowers, spanning 400 acres, down Wisconsin State Road 85, in tribute to his wife, Babbette, whom he lost last November after a 9-year battle with cancer.
"She's always loved flowers, but sunflowers were her favorite," Jaquish said, according to ABC News. "They fit her personality. She was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.”
It took Jaquish, who plans to sell the sunflower seeds and donate a portion of the proceeds to hospitals, research and patient advocacy, a week to plant the sunflowers in June.
Neighbors rented land that wasn't his to him for a reasonable price. After a 75-day growing period, the flowers finally bloomed this month.
After Babbette was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2006, the Jaquishes planted several hundred acres of sunflowers around their property. A few years later, Jaquish said his wife had the idea to raise sunflowers and sell sunflower seeds, in part to benefit cancer research.
Babbette had 22 different cancer treatments through the years, many of which were through clinical trials, Jaquish said.
“She realized the importance of research in clinical trials. She went from being expected to live 2 weeks to 2 months to 9 years,” Jaquish said. “Her attitude was, 'Every day I can stay alive, I’m one day closer to a cure.'”
A month after Babbette died on Nov. 17, 2014, Jaquish and daughter Jenny White made Babbette’s dream come true and started the company Babbette’s Seeds of Hope.
“I think she would be smiling,” Jaquish said. “We had an amazing response. We’ve had people all over the world send emails.”
“We wanted it to be a statement of love. There’s 4½ 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,” White said.
Babbette’s Seeds of Hope will soon be available for purchase, with her story on every 25-pound bag of sunflower seeds, and Jaquish said they'll plant sunflowers for her every year. White said they haven’t yet decided how much each bag will cost and what portion of the proceeds will be donated.
“I hope that eventually we can find a cure for cancer, so other families don’t have to go through what we have,” Jaquish said.