By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – At home, Lorraine Brady gardens for herself.
In the Community Garden on Wilcox Avenue in the Sixth Ward, she gardens in honor of her best friend, Tifanne Wells.
“She was always trying to help everyone,” she said. “She started First Night and the Hometown Fourth of July. She did so much.”
Wells, 44, died in 2015, shot by her boyfriend, George Jones, after an argument outside their home near Emmons on March 7, 2015. He then shot and killed himself.
Since 2017, Brady has kept a plot in the Community Garden, growing vegetables solely for the purpose of donating to local charity organizations.
“I started this garden to give everything away,” she said. “I garden at home, but giving them away is better.”
The first year, she gave her harvest – onions, shallots, broccoli and potatoes – to The Crossroads, the rehab community in Otego operated by Noelle and Brad Feik.
“Tifanne was good friends with Noelle,” Lorraine said. “I’d take vegetables to them, and two weeks later, I’d come back and all of it would be gone.”
In 2018, she took her fresh produce to the community kitchen at the Opportunities for Otsego homeless shelter.
And starting last summer, she added Nader Towers, for distribution to the residents. “They’re always so happy to get fresh vegetables,” she said.
Recently, she took a five-gallon bucket of potatoes, and her green peppers became the basis of a feast. “One of the ladies made stuffed peppers and was taking them around to people,” she said. “They were a hit!”
This year, she added a second plot, with pole beans, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, across from the plot she started with, where she grows potatoes and squash.
She is able to take Community Service hours from Wells Fargo, where she works as an assistant, to maintain the garden and make the deliveries.
Lorraine met Tifanne on the Oneonta Softball League in 1997, when they both played for the General Clinton Pub, where they both later worked together.
“She was the most outgoing, vivacious person I’ve ever known,” she said.
One time, she said, they were at a NASCAR race in the Poconos, and Wells helped strangers start their car in the parking lot. “Someone needed a jump when their car died,” she said. “She was always willing to help.”
Wells mother, Bon, made a sign for the plot with Tifanne’s name and the Wonder Woman logo, in honor of a joke her daughter used to tell. “Tifanne would always say, ‘I’m not saying I’m Wonder Woman, but have you ever seen us in the same room together?’” said Brady.
And you might see her in the garden sporting a Wonder Woman mask, made from fabric she found at WalMart. “We made a bunch of them,” she said.
Brady is still close with Tifanne’s sons. Austin is a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and Dalton is a senior at Oneonta High School. Her daughter, Cassie, lives in Otego.
“When I’m on vacation, the kids will all take turns watering and picking the garden,” she said.
And when she is weeding and picking, she takes a moment to reflect on her friend’s legacy.
“It’s relaxing, it’s peaceful, it’s the only time my brain shuts off,” she said. “And it’s a way for me to give back the same way she did.”