You Know You're From...Port Edwards: Kathy and Pat McGrath

Published: Aug. 5, 2019 at 8:42 PM CDT
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"Caterpillar, caterpillar what do you need. Lots and lots of milky milkweed," reads Kathy McGrath, a poem she and her husband wrote.

Kathy's affection for Monarch butterflies dates back more than 25 years.

"Nature is so awesome," she said.

The former kindergarten teacher of 34 years has been retired for 10. She got her husband, Pat, on board, also a retired teacher.

"What do two old retired teachers do? Go Monarch caterpillar hunting," she said with a big laugh.

"Photography's my hobby," said Pat. "It was just an extension of that."

Their living room has been taken over by aquariums, filled with caterpillars and chrysalis'.

"Pat will see an aquarium that somebody's got on the side of the road for junk, and he picks it up and puts it in the car. Or people will call and say, I've got an old aquarium," Kathy said.

"From the time we get an egg to the time it turns into a chrysalis, you're talking almost three weeks," said Pat. "Then two weeks in the chrysalis."

Last year they released almost 14-hundred butterflies. This year that number is 600 and counting.

Kathy's poem continues, "chrysalis, chrysalis, such a beautiful green. You'll become a butterfly, the most beautiful ever seen."

It's not just the thrill of the release, but the overall benefit, that keeps them going.

"Number one, they're pollinators," she said. "And if we don't have pollinators we aren't going to have food to eat."

"Friends of the Monarchs" is a group they've created in Port. The Village released 4,000 last year, and has earned the only distinction of its kind in the county.

"The organization is called Monarch City USA. And when I talked to them, I said my only problem is we're not a city, our little municipality is a village. Could we be a Monarch village? And they said sure, you'd be the first one in the United States. I said, OK, that's what I want to be," recalled Kathy.

That was in 2017. That same summer, came Monarch Park.

"You've got to stay up on the weeding, because if you don't things look not-so-nice," said Merla Scheffler as she digs in the garden.

Scheffler is the manager at Nekoosa/Port Edwards State Bank. She met Kathy and Pat at a board meeting.

"She had just explained they received the honor of becoming the first Monarch Village, it was like the light bulb went off," Scheffler said.

"It really expands the area of knowledge for people to learn about the Monarchs," added Pat.

"Very, very neat to so something for nature," Scheffler said.

They'll tag the Monarchs they release in August and September and track them as they migrate to Mexico. Then October to

"I do do other things, too," Kathy said through laughter. "I am always sad when the season's over but it's kind of a relief because it is a lot of work."

The poem concludes, ""Monarch, Monarch, where will you go? I'll fly away to Mexico."

Coming up Friday and Saturday, they'll host Monarch Fun Fest as part of a village-wide event that will include the splash pad dedication, a car and tractor show, live music and more.

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