Clemens Gardens Named – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’
ST. CLOUD – July 20th, 1989 – Clemens Gardens named for Viriginia Rose Clemens.
When a plot of land came up for sale across the street from the home of Bill and Virginia Clemens, they purchased and donated the land to the City of St. Cloud Park Department. July 20, 1989 is the date of the approved motion for the rose garden to be name for Virginia Clemens, its muse.
Virginia Clemens was born in Melrose to Robert and Mathilda Weitzel. She attended St. Cloud State University and worked for Fandel’s Department Store in St. Cloud and for the FBI in Washington D.C. Virginia married William E. Clemens on May 29, 1943. The couple lived in St. Cloud since 1951 and were benefactors of several major gifts to the St. Cloud area.
Bill Clemens founded Bankers System which became one of the most profitable businesses in the St. Cloud area. What once began as a regional bank forms supplier is now a national corporation which serves more than half of the financial institutions nationwide.
In line with their character, the Clemens have shared their financial success. The Clemens family established a $5.6 million fund to help finance community improvements along with donations made to the Benedictines and the Diocese. The Clemens’ Economic Chair and Clemens Stadium at St. John’s University in Collegeville; Clemens Library and Clemens Field-house at the College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph; and the Diocese of St. Cloud were all funded through generous gifts from the Clemens family.
However, the Clemens’ most lasting and telling testament is the rose garden. William Clemens established the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden near his home on St. Cloud’s south side 21 years ago as a way to improve his wife’s view from her home. Virginia battled multiple sclerosis for 40 years. Because the disease weakened her and made it difficult to travel, her husband Bill Clemens gave the city of St. Cloud an estimated $4.5 million dollars to create Clemens Gardens.
The Virginia Clemens Rose Garden proves a lasting tribute to the equally strong and generous woman with 1,200 rose bushes. A bronze statue depicting William and the late Virginia Clemens also stands at the entrance to the St. Cloud rose garden that bears their name.
The garden draws 2,000 people or more on peak summer weekends is now part of six separate gardens along Kilian Boulevard that make up the Clemens Gardens.
Thanks to The Stearns History Museum and intern Brittany Bokovoy for their help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History” on AM 1240 WJON.