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From Blackhawks to Bouquets: Combat veteran from Vandalia and wife open new flower shop

Posted on Monday, April 26, 2021 at 11:17 am

The Secret Garden, which opened on April 1 at the corner of Hwy. 54 and Main Street in Vandalia, is owned and operated by Silvia McFadden and Cory McFadden.

By Barry Dalton

A new flower shop, The Secret Garden, opened on April 1 at the intersection Main Street and Hwy 54 in Vandalia. Silvia McFadden, of Germany, and her husband, Cory McFadden, of Vandalia, are the owners.

“I think they have a beautiful store,” said Lynda Thurman, owner of Sticky Situation. “My husband bought me flowers from here today and they’re gorgeous. She (Silvia) does a beautiful job and they’re really pretty.”

Cory is a 1997 Van-Far High School graduate, who has returned to his hometown after 20 years of military service. He last appeared on the cover of the Leader on Oct. 29, 2003, after his Blackhawk combat helicopter was shot down in Tikrit, Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The crash was also reported on the front page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Oct. 26, the day after it occurred.

Although Cory eventually attained the rank of First Sergeant before retiring in January 2020, he was a Specialist Four at the time of the crash and had been in the service just four years. Assigned to the 12th Aviation Brigade in Giebelstadt, Germany, he would go on to see four more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He and Silvia, who was born in Wurzburg, Germany, had met while he was stationed there. At the time of the crash, their son, Neal, was almost 2 and had recently won grand champion baby during the Sept. 27 Prairie Days festival during a visit here. Neal, now 19, lives in upstate New York, where he is going to school, although he recently visited Vandalia.

The couple has two other children now, Ian and Vivian. Ian, 13, is in seventh grade at Van-Far and Vivian, 15, is in high school here. Vivian, like her mother, is quite creative. Her artwork is on display at The Secret Garden.

“My daughter is extremely talented,” Silvia said. “She’s a natural artist, so we are just always encouraging her to showcase that.”

Ian is also excited about his parents’ new endeavor and is enthusiastic to help out with various tasks around the business.

The shop, which Silvia started in her garage earlier this year, has been filling orders for flowers from patrons across Northeast Missouri, including area churches, local funeral homes and numerous deliveries across the countryside.

“We are looking forward to hosting a grand opening event sometime in the near future as people start to make their way out after almost a year of being shut in due to the pandemic,” she said.

Silvia said she has been working in the floral industry for most of her adult life, not only in Germany but in Washington, D.C., Savannah, Ga., where she did a lot of weddings, and in New York State, where she provided floral services to an area similar to Northeast Missouri.

“I’ve grown fond of Vandalia throughout the years, and I do appreciate the community and how everybody tries to support each other,” she said. “I grew up in a small town in Germany. We’re glad to be home. It feels like home even though I don’t know a lot of people, everybody’s been nothing but great. Area residents have been coming to the shop and showing their support like I’ve been here all my life.”

Although Cory doesn’t have the same green thumb that his wife has, he said his experience wearing green serves their new business well. While he cut his teeth as a combat flight engineer, as well as working on cars, guns, and even executive level business jets, he spent the last 10 years of his career in a managerial capacity.

“I think my organizational skills— namely purpose, direction, and motivation, and accountability, are going to help us showcase my wife’s talents,” Cory said. She has a real gift, he added.

Lynda Thurman, owner of Sticky Situation, currently has products on display at The Secret Garden in Vandalia.

He admits, though, that transitioning from military life to civilian life has been a challenge. It has been rewarding nonetheless, he said.

Silvia and Cory both agree that there has been an adjustment period for them both after the military.

The shop is stocked with flowers (fresh and silk), handmade crafts, and all-natural handmade soap that Silvia makes herself.

We want to provide floral services to the local area and Northeast Missouri because of all the community support during our years of military service, Cory said.

The Secret Garden is “Bringing beauty to the community,” Silvia added.

We were so appreciative of the kind note that Cory and Silvia sent to The Vandalia Leader:

Just want to say thank you for the awesome story in the paper!!!!   You were the first to break the story!  Awesome job to you and your staff …. You are always welcome to come up to the store anytime! Thanks again, Cory and Silvia, The Secret Garden Vandalia

We thank you for your service, and for the service of your wife and family, Cory. We were honored to be a part of telling a small part of your story, which has many more chapters to be written, we are quite confident.–The Vandalia Leader