In Memoriam: Richard T. (Dick) West
(The following In Memoriam was excerpted from articles by Barbara L. Bullock, Curator of Azaleas, U.S. National Arboretum, and William C. Miller III of Bethesda, Md., which appeared in the December 1996 issue of The Azalean.)
"Dick West passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Oct. 1, 1996. All who knew him are very sad, and the loss of his energetic and creative work in many areas will affect many more. At the Arboretum, for example, we are raising thousands of Glenn Dale azaleas due to Dick's efforts...Each spring was packed with the anticipation of how he would organize himself to observe, record and write as much as he possibly could - noting the correct descriptions and the locations of the plants he so dearly loved. These plants weren't merely azaleas; they were the Glenn Dale azaleas, complete with a rich legacy, steeped in scattered horticultural facts, just waiting to be pieced back together by someone like Dick...Dick West was a historian in his own right. Yes, he loved the flowers, but he was intrigued by the amount of research and time that went into producing the Glenn Dale azalea group. Benjamin Yoe Morrison, who become the first director of the National Arboretum, selected and named 454 azaleas after observing thousands of seedlings through decades of study, hybridization and tests. Over the past half century, many of these disappeared from collections. With Dick's work, we had brought back about 250 azaleas to the Arboretum.. .Without Dick we are left with a lot of loose ends. We had so many more directions to go, so many leads, and we were kept energized by his boundless energy and enthusiasm. He will be sorely missed. The contributions he made to the body of knowledge of the Glenn Dale azaleas blazed a trail that will long be followed...We will miss you, Dick; your mannerisms, your phrases, your humor, your leather tobacco pouch, but mostly, your friendship."
"...Much to my surprise, I discovered that Dick shared my interest in the history of azaleas. I was happy to share with him every scrap of information that I had discovered at Glenn Dale, the National Arboretum, River Farm, Pass Christian, Beltsville, and Takoma Park as his enthusiasm was infectious. Dick's capacity for dealing with large amounts of data and information was astounding. His ability to grasp the significance and make sense out of something that had eluded me earned him my respect. He was the proof that two heads are better than one. I could bounce an idea off him and expect a timely and reasoned response. While we did not talk daily, we talked frequently. Somewhere in the following months, our acquaintanceship turned to a serious collaboration which resulted in the many articles that were published in The Azalean, and two books - The Bell Book that was published in 1994, and a revision of Morrison's Monograph 20 that was completed in manuscript form a week before his death."
William C. Miller III