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Green thumb leaves his favorite season behind

Parks and Recreation supporter dies at 77

May 8, 2008

Jim Smrz was known as a willing volunteer and a green thumb, two talents that made him a natural leader for the Greenfield Partners of Parks and Recreation and the Wisconsin Dahlia Society.

He died April 22 at age 77. Services were held later that week at St. Alphonsus Church in Greenfield.

People who knew him said spring was his favorite season and that they would remember him with each tree and plant in the city's parks.

"He's one of those guys who always gave of himself," said Scott Jaquish, Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department director.

Smrz planted flower beds at city parks, operated the Konkel Park concession stand during numerous sports competitions, sold flowers at the spring dance recital and made items like knock-hockey pucks for summer camp games.

"He did everything from large-scale plantings to small tasks to support Parks and Recreation," Jaquish said.

Most recently, he was helping prepare the city's two newest parks in the Mitchell Highlands and Van Norman neighborhoods.

His efforts resulted in Smrz winning the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association's Honorary Fellowship Award, the highest honor a resident can receive from the group, in fall 2007.

However, that was not his first time receiving recognition for his work with the parks. He founded the city's Dedicate to Relocate Park Tree Program, which helped residents transplant healthy trees from the right-of-way to a city park. The program won the association's Silver Star Award in 1995.

When he wasn't getting his hands dirty in the parks, he could often be found growing or selling dahlias as a member of the Wisconsin Dahlia Society.

"He was very committed," secretary John Thiermann said. "He was always the first one to approach someone new at our meetings to greet them and see how he could get them interested in growing dahlias."

The two men organized their annual Midwest show each fall and sold plants during the Brookfield Green Market.

Each year, Smrz grew 400 to 500 plants in his basement and yard, donating most of them to the society's sales.

He also won numerous Wisconsin State Fair horticulture awards over the years.

Stefanie Scott can be reached at (262) 446-6618.

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