Commentary: Long Overdue
Austin C. Kennell
Rarely have so many owed so much to so few - and rarely has so little been done about it! The many? You and I and the members of the ARS. The debt? Honoring the founders of the ARS. The few? John Henny Jr. of Brooks, Ore.; H.G. Thrig of Seattle, Wash.; E.R. Peterson of Portland, Ore.; George D. Grace of Portland, Ore; and P.H. Brydon of Grander, Wash.
On May 29, 1944, a group of uncommon common men met at the home of E.R. Peterson in Portland, Ore., and gave birth to something that has touched the lives of so many people for 50 plus years so far - the American Rhododendron Society. Despite the magnitude of this accomplishment, these founders have not been given the homage they deserve. Some were subsequently awarded Gold Medals, but what they did is too unique to be just names among many names. They rate a special place on the ARS honor roll.
These men are in a class by themselves. Nothing we can do will really express what our Society owes them - but we must do something. Some of the things we could do are:
• Devote a part of the ARS annual meeting at the Portland convention to paying homage to our founders.
• List their names as founders on the inside front cover of the Journal.
• Dedicate our 50th anniversary to them.
• A special article with pictures in the Journal.
• Give their heirs honorary memberships in the ARS.
We should also try to install suitable signs or plaques to identify the birthplace of the ARS on or near the E.R. Peterson property. Perhaps we should also try to do something similar on or near the site of ARS's first meeting on July 7, 1944, in the Public Service Building, Sixth and Salmon streets in Portland. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, let's not forget those who made it all possible.
Austin Kennell, a member of the Middle Atlantic Chapter, served as ARS president from 1989 to 1991.