In Memoriam: Donald S. Kellam
Charlotte, North Carolina
Dr. Donald S. Kellam, an orthopedic surgeon by profession and rhododendron grower by passion, died, at home, in Charlotte on May 15, 1992, at age 60, after a long illness. As would have been his choice, it was during the peak of rhododendron blooming season, amid the splendor of the flowers which he so lovingly and enthusiastically promoted for almost 30 years.
Don was a founding member of the Piedmont Chapter, in the mid 1960s, along with Herbert Hechenbleikner and Charles Dewey of Charlotte, and he developed a 10 acre garden there. He was a past president, served on the board of directors, and organized several study groups for the chapter, and received a Bronze Medal. He always welcomed visitors to his garden, and was willing to share plants with those interested in learning to grow them. He also enjoyed growing native plants as associates in his exquisite woodland site. He firmly believed that interacting with people was the prime reward for growing rhododendrons.
Don was a former ARS District Director for the Southeastern region, and was one of the best known growers in the United States. He traveled and spoke widely, on both coasts, and will be especially remembered for sharing his experiences from several hiking treks to Sikkim and Nepal. He served as local and national judge in flower shows and worked on committees. He was a recognized expert on the Dexter hybrids and regularly visited Heritage Plantation on Cape Cod with Marshall Stilwell since 1981. He was appointed co-chairman, with Richard Gustafson, of the Sandwich Club, a study group to identify, test, select, name and register Cowles and Consolini hybrids, known as the second generation Dexters. In 1991 he received a Gold Medal from the ARS, and was honored with a favorite orange-flowered Cowles hybrid being named 'Don Kellam.'
In 1991 he donated 40 of his finest blooming-size Dexter plants to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Botanical Gardens to be displayed in the Van Landingham Glen rhododendron garden. Many more of his plants will be moved to the Glen in the near future, making it possibly the most complete collection of Dexters, and second generation Dexters, at any public garden in the South. The Don Kellam Collection is maintained by the Piedmont Chapter.
Don was a rare person whose warmth, enthusiasm and knowledge allowed him to make friends widely and serve as a guiding light for those who would partake in the pleasures of enlightened gardening.