Rudolph Henny - His Life and Work
Carl Phetteplace, M.D., Eugene, Ore.
Fig. 31. 'Lake Labish', which received its P.A. in
1955 also appears on our cover.
Rudolph Francis Henny was born at Mt. Angel, Oregon on October 31, 1909, the second child of John Henny, Sr. and Magdalene Stenger Henny. His parents were both born in Hungary within 20 miles of each other but had never met until the two families had immigrated to this country and settled near Mt. Angel about 1890, where they were later married. When Rudolph was quite young his family moved to Portland, where they lived for several years and then moved to Gervais, Oregon, near where the entire Henny family has lived ever since.
Rudolph attended Gervais high school and then entered Oregon State University in 1927, where he attended four years. The subjects that he was most keenly interested in were Journalism, Agriculture and English.
After college he returned to the Gervais-Brooks community where he began growing specialized agricultural crops, particularly mint and onions on a commercial basis. More recently he grew onions only, as a business, having a substantial acreage in the old lake bed of Lake Labish.
In 1934 he married Leona Hemann, whom he had known since 1930. They have one child, Dr. Rudolph M. Henny, who is presently practicing dentistry in Corvallis, Oregon. There is one grandchild, a little girl who was born October 26, 1962.
On the early morning of last May 21st, Mrs. Henny was awakened by what appeared to be a convulsive episode with her husband and she found him to be unconscious. He had apparently been well the day before. He was taken at once to a Salem hospital where coma and a very grave general condition continued. After a few days he appeared to have partially regained consciousness, and high hopes were held for his recovery. Then suddenly he became much worse, and expired on June 3, 1963.
Besides his wife, Leona and the young Dr. Rudolph's family, he is survived by his mother and two sisters and four brothers, all of whom have continued to live in the same general area as the original family. John Henny, Jr., his brother just older, is of course widely known for his work with the A.R.S. and with rhododendrons. From the start, the two brothers worked closely together both in the organization of the Society and in seeking out and importing large numbers of hitherto unobtainable rhododendron species and hybrids from abroad.
About 1936, as a part of establishing their new home and landscaping their yard, Rudolph brought home about a dozen rhododendron plants which he had gotten at a Portland nursery. They were of such varieties as 'Gomer Waterer,' 'Pink Pearl,' 'Cynthia,' et cetera. He was much impressed with these plants as ornamentals, and became eager to learn more of their range and possibilities. As a result he obtained catalogs from growers here and abroad and also the Rhododendron Species book, which he studied eagerly. Mrs. Henny states that their income would not permit them to purchase many plants, so he very soon began in a small way to propagate and also experiment with pollen and grow plants from seed.
Brother John was equally interested in this material, and before long they had established contacts in England where some of these exciting plants they had read about could be obtained. By this time George Grace had been doing some importing, and in him they found a kindred spirit. Contact was made with others who were interested, especially around Portland, Seattle and Eugene, and by 1946 this group formed the beginning of the American Rhododendron Society. The first Bulletin was published in April 1947, edited by Mr. Milton Poland. In 1948 Rudolph took over the editorship, which he continued so ably until his death.
It is impossible to tell how many rhododendrons he grew or how many hybrids he made. He exhibited the first American hybrid shown at an A.R.S. Show (which that year was combined with the Men's Garden Club of America Show) in Portland, May 23, 1947. It was named 'Doctor Ross'. We know that he has dozens of named hybrids listed in the International Rhododendron Register, and many have received awards. His standards for accuracy and quality were always of the highest. He was heard to say on one occasion a few years ago that since the beginning he had destroyed over 30,000 seedlings that he had grown long enough to appraise and find unworthy. This seems to me real testimony as to his strength of character.
Fig. 32. 'Captain Jack', which received a
P. A. in 1956 has been considered by some
as one of Rudolph Henny's best introductions.
In more recent years he became interested in ornamental cherries, and though this did not diminish his interest in rhododendrons, he is said to have the largest and choicest collection of cherries in the Northwest if not in the country. All this plus the editorship, was done while carrying on a large scale onion growing operation, which in itself is a very demanding occupation, especially at certain seasons of the year.
It was a rare pleasure to visit and walk with him about his garden. Early he learned about the Barto collection, and grew many of the choicest Barto plants which are now 30 years old and fine specimens. With these are many fine species and hybrids that were imported years ago, in addition to many large specimens from his own hybridizing that have never been exhibited or named. The garden, it would seem, covers about four acres in a wooded area. Although it contains more fine plants than one will often see in one collection in this country, there is not the impression of crowding or "jungle" that sometimes develops. This is because there has been excellent judgment used in arranging plants in groups with ample walkways everywhere so that plants can be easily seen.
Nor was the conversation on these visits with him all concerned with his beloved plants. He and Mrs. Henny "collected" birds as well as plants, and their winter feeding stations brought a great variety of feathered friends for them to identify and observe. On one occasion I recall his pleasure in showing me a small spruce tree not ten feet from the corner of the house where a covey of quail roosted each winter while attending the Henny "boarding house."
Some men go clamoring and traveling about widely, that they might gain recognition or fame. This gentle person of the soft voice almost never was any distance away from his rural home near a small Oregon village, yet he was known and highly regarded throughout the horticultural world.
He was devoted to his home and family. He loved beauty and found expression of this love in Nature's beautiful flowers. He spent much time and thought to make them, if possible, even more beautiful. He was deeply religious, a life-long member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Gervais. During the trip to Winterthur and New York for the annual meeting in 1961, when we had the pleasure of accompanying him and Mrs. Henny, he never missed an opportunity when there was a Chapel nearby to stop in for a few moments of personal devotion. This, by the way, was his first trip to the east coast and the longest ever from home. He loved all of God's creatures, great and small, as evidenced by the many friends he had about the world on one hand and by the songbirds that gathered about his home and garden on the other.
His life bears testimony that he was motivated by the philosophy that serving and giving of himself for the good of others without thought of personal gain was the means to greatest satisfaction and happiness. This is the highest type of human behavior. Many of us have often thought of the late hours he must have spent over the years, often after a full day's toil in the field, in preparing the Bulletin and answering the voluminous correspondence he received from everywhere...and this was only a part of his contribution to the A.R.S. Likewise he contributed generously of his time and talents to the affairs of his community, having served for 17 years as a member of the Board of Directors of Gervais High School.
It is written that St. Francis of Assisi was working in his garden one day when a passerby stopped and posed the question, if he were then to be told that this was the last day he would have to live on this earth, what would he do? St. Francis replied: "I would work in my garden." And so with Rudolph Henny-had he known in advance that this untimely tragedy was to cut him down when it did, who would have had him different than the man he was?
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."