Once hidden, Oakwood's Francine’s Garden is for all to enjoy

OAKWOOD — Francine van der Hoeven’s early accomplishments were known to a few, just as the “hidden garden” she discovered and nurtured was reserved mostly for family and friends.

Mrs. van der Hoeven died in January of 2008, and now all can enjoy the garden she once tended, which is part of Centennial Park at Houk Stream.

The city approved a resolution July 20 to restore and name a portion of the park Francine’s Garden. Dr. Ludolph van der Hoeven has donated $20,000 toward the restoration of the garden.

“It is meant to be in memory of my wife for the person she was and for her achievements,” said van der Hoeven. “To have a garden where people can relax and repose and enjoy the environment.”

The van der Hoeven family moved to the house on Park Road in 1971. They found on their property a garden area, surrounded by trees, which had become overgrown. The van der Hoevens worked at the property for years, restoring and improving it. It became known locally as the Hidden Garden.

“We enjoyed having it and spending time there,” said van der Hoeven.

The van der Hoevens moved from Oakwood in 1995.

In 2007, the city bought the 3.1-acre undeveloped land, the location of the Hidden Garden, near Houk Stream for $475,000. The purchase was the legacy component of Oakwood’s Centennial celebration. The land was renamed Centennial Park at Houk Stream.

When Mrs. van der Hoeven died, her husband asked that, instead of flowers, friends donate toward a lasting gift in her memory. Those donations are included in the $20,000 van der Hoeven contribution to Francine’s Garden.

Francine van der Hoeven was known in the Dayton area for her work in the community and her membership in the Garden Club of Dayton.

However, prior to marrying, Mrs. van der Hoeven was a child prodigy and intent on becoming a doctor before World War II erupted.

Born on May 28, 1922, in the Netherlands, Francine Ader learned to read at age 4, and entered medical school when she was 15 years old. However, her education was interrupted when Germany invaded in 1940. She met van der Hoeven during the war, and they were married after it ended. They had five children.

They moved to the United States, and to the Dayton area in 1962.

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