Charlie Herbert: 1901 - 1978
Lew Bagoly, Valley Forge, PA
On November 26, 1978 the American Rhododendron Society lost a uniquely dynamic force, and those of us privileged to know him, an irreplaceable friend. Charlie Herbert died at the age of seventy seven.
Charlie started what was to become a life long affair with rhododendrons back in 1925. As the story goes, he chanced to see a child with some beautiful flowers unfamiliar to him. Never one to wonder about things without positive action, he soon discovered the source of the blossoms. It turned out to be a rhododendron, and the love affair was on.
In the ensuing years Charlie searched for the meager information then available on rhododendrons. Sought out fellow enthusiasts, located sources of plant material and started gathering plants. The collection grew slowly at first. The Depression interfered, and there really was little available other than the Eastern species and a few English hybrids. In 1945 his activities brought him into contact with Joe Gable. The two men became lasting friends and through this association Charlie's interests were expanded to include raising of plants from seed and hybridizing. In 1961 he and his wife Ethel moved, what was by now, an extensive collection to "Stony Acres", a wooded hillside at the edge of Valley Forge. There, through Charlie's untiring efforts and loving care, the garden developed into its present form.
Stony Acres certainly mirrors the nature of the man who created it. It is natural, unpretentious, and reflects his intense dedication in the great variety of its contents. The more than 7,000 plants represent perhaps the most comprehensive collection of rhododendrons suitable for growing on the East Coast.
Charlie was a mover, a doer, and was active to the end as all of us close to him knew he had to be. He was a founder and charter member of the Philadelphia Chapter; he was the founder and, until his death, the cornerstone of the Valley Forge Chapter. Charlie made things happen - plant sales, banquets, a local seed exchange, picnics, bus trips, cutting exchange, test gardens, truss shows, and study groups. Among his many hybrid creations are over twenty registered clones including 'Schuylkill', 'French Creek', 'Ethel M.', 'Beechwood Pink', 'Pikeland', 'Powder Mill Run', 'Aldham', 'Antigua', 'Leon Rind' and others. Through his great generosity, many of these have found their way into the gardens of friends and acquaintances. He was unstinting in sharing his knowledge, plant material, cuttings, seedlings, and above all, his infectious enthusiasm.
The foregoing is a brief objective summary of one man's dedication to an ideal. I would like to close with a subjective reflection on a personal loss.
Good-by my friend, God be with you as you pass through life's final door. I am the richer for having known you. The world more beautiful than before.