In Memoriam: Tony Shammarello
David G. Leach, North Madison, OH
Tony Shammarello died at 79 on October 10, 1982 following a stroke at his home in South Euclid, Ohio on October 1st. His wife, Marie, a horticulturist formerly with Wayside Gardens, shared his later years, and was his constant companion until his death.
Tony was christened Anthony W. Shammarello, son of Italian émigrés from Calabria. His father was a landscaper turned nurseryman, the senior in a partnership with his son in suburban Cleveland. The devastating winter of 1938 induced Tony to begin hybridizing. Ninety percent of the rhododendrons in the Shammarello field were brown caricatures of the thriving plants that had so pleased their growers the previous autumn.
Tony thought that, while he was at it, he might as well aim at producing rhododendron hybrids heavily foliaged and of modest stature, as opposed to the ungainly, bare-based grafted plants which were then the staple of commerce. His goal was largely reached, and most of the Shammarello hybrids are conspicuously good evergreen landscaping shrubs.
By 1978 Tony had released 29 named rhododendron cultivars, of which the six Yaku-series were the last. Many of the earlier introductions have become standard offerings in the trade, and the yakushimanum hybrids are much in demand by hobbyists. In addition, 18 persistent leaved azalea hybrids were introduced, of which six were patented; most of them have achieved large distribution on their merits.
The Shammarello productions were widely recognized formally, as well as by gardeners. The American Horticultural Society cited him for his accomplishments in 1967. The Distinguished Contribution Award of the Ohio Nurserymen's Association came his way in 1972. A year later, an honor he particularly cherished, the Gold Medal of this Society was awarded to him.
Tony was especially successful as a man as well as a hybridizer. His warm personality, friendly and modest, accompanied a manner both courteous and so courtly that he seemed at times, especially with women, a holdover from a more gracious era. I have never heard anyone speak ill of him, and he had myriad acquaintances along with an extraordinary number of friends. Few have had so many devoted to them. He was a perceptive and consonant friend to me.
Tony was both a worker for, and a benefactor of, the Great Lakes Chapter. He was one of its organizers, and subsequently a director; he was also a founder of its display and test gardens, and a faithful exhibitor of trusses at its shows. His talent for landscape design was evident in the exhibition gardens which he helped to create during the early years of the Chapter. A remarkably successful propagator and grower, he gave many lectures on the cultivation of rhododendrons, before his retirement.
The little guy with the big heart has played a part that left the stage more beautiful than he found it. The legacy will endure, longer than most men's endeavors, longer even than marble.