In Memoriam: Lawrence Allbaugh
Lawrence (Larry) Allbaugh of Everson, Wash., passed away peacefully on Jan. 24, 1999, at the age of 79. Larry was born on Nov. 11, 1919, in Whatcom County, Washington, where his family operated a dairy farm. He graduated from Washington State College with honors in forestry. In college he joined the Navy ROTC, training in and later teaching gunnery at Columbia University in New York City. He served active duty in the Pacific as a lieutenant in Word War II. After the war Larry returned with his wife, Alma, to the family farm. He and Alma operated the dairy farm while raising a family of five children.
During his years as a dairy farmer, Larry became interested in rhododendrons, and in 1975 he and Alma turned their hobby into a business and opened Komo Kulshan Gardens. Although they retired from retail sales in 1987, Larry and Alma continued to work daily caring for their extensive collection of rhododendrons and companion plants. Only his final illness kept him from the work he loved so much.
Larry was one of the early members of the Komo Kulshan Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. He was active in the chapter, serving as president and treasurer, but even more important he was the answer man. If you had a question that was hard to answer, you asked Larry. If someone else asked you a question you couldn't answer, you said, "Ask Larry. If anybody knows it will be him."
Komo Kulshan Gardens was a success not just because of Larry and Alma's hard work but because both became very knowledgeable about plants and were willing to share this knowledge and their love of plants. The well-known cultivar Rhododendron kiusianum 'Komo-kulshan' (unregistered name) was selected from a batch of seedlings grown by the Allbaughs.
Since 1991 Larry and Alma were proof readers for the Journal American Rhododendron Society. In 1955 I had the privilege of presenting the Bronze Medal to Larry and Alma.
It was 16 years ago this spring that my wife, Lori, and I stopped at Komo Kulshan Gardens to buy some rhododendrons, the first of several hundred we would acquire from Larry and Alma. It was also the beginning of a long and lasting friendship. We soon learned that you didn't go to the house to find Larry but out to the rhodies where you would see a bush shaking or spot Larry's red hat. But first we would take a peek in the barn where Larry was able to grow some of the more tender rhododendrons, many of which were spectacular big-leaf species. When talking with someone else about Komo Kulshan Gardens, one would invariably say, "Have you seen the rhodies in the barn?"
If you had to use a few words to describe Larry you would use words like hard work, high ethics, self reliance and loyalty. But Larry was not just hard work, honesty and rhodies. He was also a proud father and grandfather. His family was of great comfort to him in his final weeks. At one point, he beamed as he told me, "And all my children are here."