Servant’s Heart

Loy Summers’ tireless work with the Covington Garden Club spans 14 presidencies, from Harry Truman to Joe Biden. The legacy of beautification she began back in 1952 will echo into future generations thanks to her unwavering passion and commitment. 

by John Babylon

What do seven decades of contribution, community and connection look like? The answer can be found in Loy Summers, whose Newton County roots can be traced all the way back to before the American Revolution. Born on a farm two miles south of Mansfield, she credits her time there for the lifelong passion she developed for growing things.

When Summers was asked to join the Covington Garden Club in 1952, she did so with a quiet humility. She admits she was “flattered” to even be considered, though joining the club would prove to be the first seeds sown in a long life of service to her community.

The Covington Garden Club dedicates itself to social interaction and the beautification of Covington’s many parks and public areas. It sparked Summers’ passion for the work. When asked about her tireless dedication to the cause, she responded like only she could: “It never occurred to me to quit.” Gardening was a sanctuary—a deeply spiritual pursuit through which she found harmony with nature and God. Using her passion to contribute to the community she calls home was a bonus. Summers sees it as an “investment of the soul” and a way for her to leaving something behind to future generations.

“You have to have faith,” she said, “that someone is going to see it.”

Summers’ contributions extend far beyond her own garden. She has been afforded the opportunity to work on many projects in which she took particular pride, not the least of which is Memorial Gardens in Academy Springs Park—just a few blocks from her home. However, her proudest moment was when she received the Certificate of Merit from the Garden Club of Georgia. Summers admits she was never motivated by such achievements but was grateful for the recognition and the experience. The Covington Garden Club graced her with other opportunities to contribute to her hometown in ways she never imagined, like arranging flowers for local churches and sitting on the club’s tree board, which is responsible for the planting and arranging of trees in Covington’s public parks.

“Nothing turns out like you envision, but don’t be afraid of mistakes.”

Loy Summers

Through these contributions and many others, Summers has dedicated her life to bettering her community. Her deep and abiding love for gardening and the outdoors remains apparent, but the connections she has made through her efforts with the Covington Garden Club are even more deeply felt. Summers speaks of a universal joy she found when exercising her craft. It was only enhanced when she shared the experience with others. Helping breathe life into a community of growers was as important as the growing itself. 

Nothing compares to the countless connections she made and the friendships that were formed throughout her 70 years of service. She passed them down to her own family, her love of the craft carried on through some of her 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. It appears as though the pastime of gardening will be well preserved in a legacy Summers continues to build.

Beyond the experiences and relationships, she points to the memories she has been able to share with others, including the thrill and privilege of showing her own garden and the chance to teach and mentor others in the labor of love. Summers admits she made many mistakes while refining her craft over the course of 70-plus years.

“Nothing turns out like you envision,” she said with a laugh, “but don’t be afraid of mistakes.” For Summers, gardening is akin to handling a newborn baby—a miracle of life. As with so much of life, there are too many avenues to follow to allow a few missteps to keep you from being successful. “Focus on what you can do,” she added.

That connection brings her closer to the Creator. Just as a garden can be an expression of Summers, she can be an expression of God. The vibrant life that can be coaxed out of the soil is proof enough of His existence and, perhaps more importantly, proof of His attention to the smallest details. Anyone who spends time with Summers seems certain to come away with one thought: Few flowers in Covington bloom any brighter than she does. 

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