In Memoriam: C. Vernon May
After more than 93 years of a full and eventful life, C. Vernon May died on March 16, 2001. Vernon May was a forest ranger and a fireman for more than thirty years before he retired. However, he later admitted that he wished he had had been a horticulturist. His daughter, Patti, remembers him as a great horticulturist whether growing vegetables, fruit trees, orchids or rhodies and azaleas. "Every place he lived he grew the most wonderful vegetables, flowers and even orchids," Patti said. "Even dead sticks seemed to grow for him."
After living in Southern California, Idaho and Mexico, Vernon and his wife, Marion, moved to Florence, Oregon, in the early '70s. Vernon became involved with growing and hybridizing rhodies and azaleas. He turned the greenhouse into a hybridizing mini-farm and opened the garden to tours. Vernon gave generously of his hybridized cuttings and plants to the chapter, flower shows and individuals. He passed on his knowledge of rhododendrons and azaleas to the rhody community through workshops and personal assistance. He and Marion traveled extensively in Mexico, Central America and then in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania touring rhody gardens. After Marion's death, Vernon continued his travels to Japan and joined Harold and Nancy Greer's garden tours of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany.
Vernon and Marion were members of the ARS for many years and represented the Siuslaw Chapter at regional and annual conventions. Each of them was awarded the Bronze Medal.
Patti is honoring Vernon and Marion with a memorial bench placed in Gallagher Park, a beautiful rhododendron garden in Florence. The bench is next to Vernon's hybridized rhody 'Marion May' which he named in honor of his wife. A sister seedling, 'Vernon May', will be planted this fall next to 'Marion May'.