"If you Knew Ester Like I Know Ester..."
Marjorie W. Baird, Bellevue, WA
I'm sure everyone in the A.R.S. knows Esther Berry. Her fame as chairman of the Seed Exchange has spread far beyond the U.S.A. During the 13 years she was its "Seedy Ole' Esther", seed amounting to 500 packages increased to between 20 to 30,000 packages! With the help of a very few dedicated co-workers, the Exchange procedures were refined to the highest efficiency. But what is not generally known is the extent of the correspondence that developed. Letters from all over the world had to be answered and that was time-consuming! No complaints from Esther, however. The friendships that were born more than repaid her for the midnight oil burned.
Three years ago she accepted the position of Executive Secretary. (No one had been found to take the Seed Exchange so it was still under her wing for another year.) It was not without considerable arm-twisting that she took on this new responsibility. She laughingly tells me that when her husband Bob was alive he was plunged into abysmal despair by her lack of any records whatsoever in her bank book. So this new role was not a 'natural' for her, but one which required hours of onerous and unfamiliar practices. With her typical determination and diligence she at last mastered the situation and I'll wager she'll hand over to her successor a smooth-running machine.
I met Esther 15 years ago when we were both members of the U. of W. Arboretum bulletin's editorial board. We have many interests in common and have been good friends ever since. Here are some things you might not know about her:
Esther comes by her Green Thumb naturally; her roots were in the rich soil of Kansas until she and her husband moved to Seattle in 1940. Five years later they moved to Aberdeen. She joined that Chapter of the Society and has been working for it ever since in many capacities: president, show chairman, program chairman, propagator (she is an expert at propagating rhododendrons and azaleas by cuttings and seed), plant sale chairman, and general woman-of-all-work.
In 1962, as Chapter president, Esther joined the A.R.S. Board of Directors. She took a vital interest in the Society and with the courage of her convictions, fought to keep down unnecessary costs and expenditures.
Much to everyone's regret, Esther is retiring this year and is looking forward to working and planning in her beautiful garden, which she feels she has sorely neglected the past 15 years. Besides her family (she has two sons in Washington State, a daughter in California, and 7 grandchildren) and rhododendrons, she is interested in alpine plants, primulas, ferns, native plants, and even joined the Rose Society under the influence of a good friend. She is in demand as a speaker and a show judge.
These words from "Hamlet" are, to me, a pronouncement of the spirit of Esther:
"This above all, - to thine own self be true:
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not thence be false to any man."
"...Oh! Oh, What a gal!"