My Bernheim Story: Dick Dennis

By Bernheim

Volunteer Naturalist, Dick Dennis helps Bernheim visitors become enchanted by nature, at Bloomfest and throughout the year.

My Bernheim story once had a familiar refrain- “I was there when I was young, but haven’t been for a long time.” My parents, living in Louisville, loved Bernheim. Between my ages of  six and eleven, we were often out at Bernheim feeding the ducks and geese and looking for wildflowers. Mom and dad came straight off farms in Missouri’s rich  black soil. They loved nature and the outdoors. The main road was by the Holly and Cedar Ponds, wider than it is today.

But, I  soon became active in school and sports activities, went away to college, and then got involved in a time-intensive career.  Later, as I could see retirement on the horizon, I looked for ways to tame my  “type-A” fast-paced, high pressure lifestyle. I came to Bernheim, at the Garden Pavilion, for a rain forest conference. ( I later calculated it was my first visit in 47 years).  The sun was setting through a bank of clouds over Lake Nevin. The full moon was already up.  Swallows were circling all over, looking for insects  on the wing. Many visitors were hiking the Trail, or sitting on benches. The water was soothing and peaceful, with rays of sun coming through the clouds and brightening the gentle ripples on the water. I thought ” I need to get out here more often.”  Wren Smith was at the Rain Forest Conference, and I was volunteering  at Bernheim the next week.

That conference was in 2005, and I have made Bernheim a big part of my life ever since.   Now there are three generations of my family that love Bernheim. The staff is so helpful and committed, and sharing my passion for nature and horticulture with fellow volunteers and the public is  very  enriching. Bernheim connected me back to nature.  I think Mom and Dad would be pleased.

~Dick Dennis, Louisville, KY

Dick Dennis with Bernheim at Lebanon Junction Elementary Jan. 29, 2018.


In honor of Bernheim’s 90th anniversary in 2019, we are making a conscious effort to collect stories and memories of Bernheim. In addition to your stories, both old and new, we are seeking any photographs, video footage and historical information you may have about Bernheim from the past 90 years.  Please let us know if you or someone you know has a great Bernheim story to share by contacting us at

Please note: Any information provided to grants Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest the permission to reuse this information in print and/or digital formats, as well as other public display for the promotion of its 90th anniversary in 2019 and beyond, to further the efforts of our mission in connecting people with nature.

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