In Memoriam: C. Russell Haag
Glenville, North Carolina
Russ Haag died on Feb. 20, 1995, at the age of 85. His death ended the Haag "team" after more than 45 years. Indeed, when he and his wife, Velma, were presented with the ARS Silver Medal in 1981 by President Fred Galle, the inscription reads: "You have been active as a team...for nearly thirty years."
When the Haags moved to a shady locale in 1950 in Cranston, N.J., they were influenced by an article in the Saturday Evening Post entitled "The Blooming Forest of Joe Gable." They remained friends for the rest of Joe's life. Their romance with rhododendrons led them to become charter members of the New Jersey Chapter, which was formed in 1953. They collected many plants and began hybridizing themselves. Alfred S. Martin, ARS president in 1973-75, describes them as the "wheels" in New Jersey in the '50s.
As a chemical engineer with Exxon, Russ was on assignment in Cuba. He had the doubtful distinction of being a passenger aboard the last evacuation plane when Castro closed Cuba to outsiders.
Upon Russ' retirement a diligent search of the North Carolina area resulted in choosing the Cedar Mountain acreage where they moved in 1971. Russ told of loading a large truck with 4,000 plants and seedlings and racing to North Carolina to unload the truck and care for its contents.
The last year they planted seedlings was 1988. Questing for the perfect yellow hybrid, among others, they have grown more than 40,000 seedlings with some as yet un-flowered. The New Jersey climate was milder than North Carolina, and the late frosts of the mountains caused them to abandon lepidote breeding. There are many unregistered hybrids - including a sibling of Weldon Delp's 'Weldy' (Kehr Cross). 'Blue Ridge' is a blue lepidote. There are also: 'Cloud Nine', 'Great Smokey' and 'Smokey Mountain' to name a few. 'Haag's Choice' is a Gable hybrid, which was chosen by Russ from a group of Gable seedlings. Joe named it accordingly.
Russ served as Southeastern Chapter president from mid-1977 to mid-1979. With Velma, Russ was part of the Gable Study group. Their friendships with most of the rhododendron world are enviable. Dr. Tom Ring described Russ as "warm, friendly and helpful." He will be missed by us all.