Hope blooms at Kissiar Sunflower Patch

Photo by Shari Harris

The General Store is beside the gate to the sunflower patch. A few flowers are bloomed now, with many, many more ready to “pop” any day.

By Shari Harris

Publisher

When John and Cherie Kissiar bought the building on North Main Street most recently known as Dunky’s Restaurant, surely few people expected the couple from Ohio to renovate the building and the property surrounding it, turning it into a home, an attraction and a memorial sunflower patch.

Remodeling the interior was placed on hold to take advantage of warm weather; the Kissiars turned to exterior work. Inspired by Rustin Baker’s Legends of Music Barn in Millersburg, Ohio, they converted three sides of the building into a work of art. A Texaco station is portrayed on the south wall (they plan a full transformation of the southeast corner of the building into an old-fashioned Texaco station). Just around the corner are beautiful blue and pink butterflies, at the perfect height for posing in front of, to become a butterfly yourself. To the left of this, on the west wall, is the beginning of an old country church. (More work is anticipated on this design, including a stained glass window.) The north wall is decorated old western style; it displays the Buffalo-Lick Saloon, the jail and the Livery Stable, with future plans for a boardwalk.

This home/work of art is just the beginning, however. Despite the roomy porch on the east side of the home, fronting North Main Street, you won’t often find the Kissiars enjoying the shaded area. You are more likely to find them behind the house, in their other inspired creation – the Kissiar Sunflower Patch.

“We did it for Bret,” says Cherie Kissiar of the total makeover of the overgrown area that had been behind the building when they bought it. Metal, glass, brush and weeds had to be removed from the area before Cherie planted a variety of sunflowers by hand.

Photo by Shari Harris

This solitary plant sports 29 flower heads 

and holds a special meaning for the Kissiars.

Rows and rows of sunflowers have thrived under their care, including one that survived in an area where no others did and has thrived, with 29 sunflower heads adorning it, top to bottom. Cherie and John named this one Bret, after their son who lost his battle with cancer on Jan. 24, 2020, at the age of 29-years.

The Kissiars’ sunflowers represent new life, new beginnings, and the patch has been an important component in their grieving process. They want to help others heal, inviting people to use the sunflower patch to share their grief. Special cards have been designed, allowing others to adopt a sunflower in memory of their loved one. Benches and walking paths have been added to allow one to spend time enjoying the patch, perhaps watching their sunflower grow. A heartfelt donation will be accepted for the adoption cards. T-shirts and eventually patches and magnets will be sold at the General Store, a small building located in front of the Sunflower Patch. All funds raised will go to sponsor a sick child and their family to go to Disney World or another destination in Bret’s honor.

Cherie Kissiar recalls this as the driving force behind her work on the patch. She had asked Bret where he would like to go when he recovered from his chemotherapy, and he had replied, “Disney.” Unfortunately, with Bret’s death, the promise she made him that day would never come to be.

“I hope I can send someone,” Cherie says, determined to fulfill the promise in the only way she can.

John and Cherie Kissiar have devoted most of their time to this labor of love, and have been grateful to new neighbors and friends who have chipped in. Lloyd and Udena Bates and Tom Todaro have been very helpful, and their names are painted on the benches in the patch. Gary Cook and many others in the community have helped as well. Lowes Home Improvement in Rolla also donated buckets, posts and concrete for the irrigation system.

Though the Kissiars are from Ohio, John’s father, Donald Kissiar, grew up near Licking. He was a Southern Baptist minister; he preached at Rock Springs Baptist Church and taught in the Licking School District before moving his family to Ohio. The portrayal of the old church on the west side of the house is in his honor, and the wood for the stable door on the north side of the house is from barn wood and other scrap lumber found near the Kissiar family’s rock house on Hwy. 137, where Donald Kissiar lived as a child.

To see the Kissiar Sunflower Patch and their works of art, stop by for their Grand Opening on Aug. 28, 5 p.m. to dusk, or Aug. 29 and 30, 12 p.m. to dusk. Follow their Facebook page for a list of planned activities. If you can’t make it then, the Kissiars plan to have the General Store open on weekends, but the patch is open every day during daylight hours. Just sign in at the gate.

The Kissiar Sunflower Patch can be found at 115 North Main Street, just a block north of the four-way stop. There are some rules – appropriate footwear is a must. Despite their best efforts, pieces of glass continue to work their way up in the soil. No pets are allowed in the patch, and all persons under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. A full list of rules is posted on the General Store building and a release form must be signed to enter the patch.

The sunflowers are beginning to bloom now, so the grand opening should be a colorful show. Bring your cameras, and perhaps a tissue, as you take in the beauty and heartfelt inspiration of the Kissiar Sunflower Patch.

Photos by Shari Harris

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