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In Remembrance - Dennis Buettner, FASLA (1943-2020)

With the passing of Dennis Buettner, FASLA on Sept. 15, 2020 the Friends of Villa Terrace have lost a treasure, the creator of their beloved Renaissance Garden. 

It was Dennis’s passion for history, plants and public spaces that convinced our Friends group that he was the landscape architect who should be entrusted with the re-design of the neglected gardens at Villa Terrace in 1997. He proved them 100% correct. Dennis was President of Buettner and Associates for over 20 years at that time. The promise of his landscape architectural firm had been seen in several large public projects, like the Governor’s Residence and the Allen Centennial Gardens in Madison, the Janesville Rotary Gardens and the Green Bay Botanical Gardens. 

After designing and overseeing the installation of our Renaissance Garden by directing a host of volunteers from the Renaissance Garden Club, Dennis loved and excelled at giving insightful tours of the garden he knew so well. But he did not just do the design: He served on the Friends Board from 2003 onward, was secretary in 2006 and president in 2008-9. He shared his knowledge and enthusiasm in many lectures, gave his collection of Japanese prints for an exhibition, wrote our first annual report and organized tours of other private gardens for the Friends and the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society. His partner, Scot Lace, was in charge of the Christmas decorations at the Villa for 15 years.

My first encounter with Dennis was when he was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects at the 1995 ASLA Convention.  But I also met Dennis at antique fairs, garden parties and during photoshoots by a garden photographer from England. In 2006 he recruited me to become a board member of FOVT and after co-chairing the 2009 Gala I succeeded him as president of the Friends. For many years thereafter Dennis continued to be an expert adviser of the Garden Committee. In his gentle and quiet way he has guarded the path of FOVT and the Renaissance Garden ever since its creation. 


We give thanks for the life of Dennis Buettner and will do our best to honor his legacy.

With a deep sense of gratitude, 

Margarete Harvey, ASLA
Past President  FOVT, 2010-11


Dennis Buettner was a long-time member of the FOVT, and served as Recording Secretary, Vice President, and President. He was, of course, known as the designer of the Villa’s Renaissance Garden. But he did so much more. For many years, Dennis and Scott Lace were responsible for providing and setting up the incredible Christmas decorations that graced the Villa through much of the winter months. It was his idea to release doves at the opening of the garden in Spring. He arranged for a telescope to be available for viewing the full moon during the Villa Luna events. He even found Italian-style flag-throwers for a special feature of the first Gala in the Garden.


I first met Dennis Buettner in 2003 when he joined the Board of FOVT. As is the case with most Boards, our paths mainly crossed at the monthly meetings. However, in 2006, Dennis and I worked closely on the design of a wine label for Villa Luna Wine, which he had arranged to be bottled and shipped to Milwaukee for that year’s Villa Luna event. The wine flowed that evening and cases were ordered as part of the fundraising event. I took advantage of that opportunity myself.


In 2007, Dennis arranged for an FOVT tour of South Florida, which featured visits to private and public gardens, as well as museums in Del Ray Beach, Boca Raton, Palm Beach, Coral Gables, Miami, and Biscayne Bay. Every day, ten of us would load into a rented van. Dennis did all the driving and I, loaded down with actual maps (not GPS) was his navigator. Because of the height of the van, Dennis purchased a step stool to help everyone get in and out. Somehow, as navigator, I was also put in charge of handling the step stool. The trip was a great success thanks to all the advance planning by Dennis. Our group did take its toll on him as evidenced by the attached photo I took of him taking a well-deserved siesta outside the museum in Boca Raton.


In 2012, Dennis offered his personal collection of Japanese bronzes as a special FOVT exhibition, Bronze Works of the Floating World. I worked with Dennis and Scott Lace on the promotional pieces, the exhibition catalog, and the actual setup that took place in the room that is now the main entrance to the Villa. Dennis and Scott were so meticulous in assembling this exhibition that they repainted the entire room, including the built-in storage cabinets.


Dennis was a great guy and, as evidenced by my memories above, will be sorely missed.


Alan J. Strekow

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