In Memoriam: Mike Trembath
Dr. Bobby Ogdon
She touched our lives, making a positive impact, and likely we were not even aware of it. She was, well, just always there, assisting in many ways at nearly every meeting. She got in at the ground level, so to speak. It was the early '60s and the American Rhododendron Association, Vancouver Chapter (as it was known in those days), was in its infancy. Mike Trembath's infectious enthusiasm for the genus Rhododendron could be observed by her involvement in the newly formed horticultural society. Officially, her given name was Margaret, but anything other than "Mike" was foreign territory to her friends. If you called her Margaret, you did not know her.
Mike's presence at meetings of the Vancouver Rhododendron Society was as expected, welcomed and reliable as a fresh spring shower. It felt right to be greeted by Mike at a rhodo meeting. Ever the eager learner, she was also adept at teaching and tutoring, reveling in the opportunity to share her considerable knowledge with neophyte gardeners. She was never too busy to aid in another's quest to learn. She willingly shared her horticultural passion and opinions.
Mike's comfort zone required her to stay in the background, encouraging, supporting, advising, teaching, and ever ready to assist meeting any need in the society. I cannot remember our first personal introduction, but I recall her rabid interest in the annual competitive shows. Her eyes sparkled as she excitedly and efficiently aided the various show committees.
She was at her best at Vancouver's annual show. Few could measure up to the high standards Mike set for classification of the trusses for showing. In fact she was instrumental in revising the classes and reorganizing them in a more reasonable fashion. A subsequent paper listing the diverse offerings of rhodos for showing is unparalleled, and used by many other show committees. She carefully ensured proper placement of the plants and trusses, both for equitable judging and for the best viewing. When requested to judge in a show, she did so with her customary fairness and expertise that brought credit to the judges and exhibitors alike. Her thorough knowledge of species and hybrids alike enabled Mike to understand the nuances of the competitions.
Mike was born in Cobourg, Ontario, in 1924. She studied at the University of Toronto and U. of T. medical school in preparation for her profession as a physician. Her marriage to James took place in 1950 at Bracebridge, Ontario. They moved to British Columbia, settling initially in Mission before moving to Surrey; and finally to Langley. Her medical skills as a general practitioner were demonstrated in Surrey and at Surrey Memorial Hospital. Mike retired nine years ago after a fulfilling career as a family physician.
In 1989 the Fraser South Rhododendron Society was formed, and Mike eagerly became one of the twelve charter members. The subsequent success and growth of this group is due in no small way to Mike's constant encouragement. For many years Mike capably served as the editor of our newsletter. Her literary skills coincided with her love for rhodos, to produce a first-class publication of society news. She understood the significance of maintaining communication with all members in the Society. Later, she edited and produced "The First Ten Years," a year- by-year history of the society which meets in Langley. Few monthly, regular meetings took place without Mike in attendance. She was also a fixture at executive meetings of the society, often hosting us in her home, and of course leading us in tours of the garden.
'Lionheart' was one of several of Mike's own hybrids, of which she was justifiably proud. Unfortunately the gorgeous yellow trusses show their obstinacy by reluctantly appearing too late for entry to most of our shows. When 'Lionheart' was in bloom, visitors to her garden were able to experience, with her, the joy of her personal accomplishment. Other wonderful hybrids she registered are 'Ellalikabetta', 'Canadian Kaleidoscope', 'Nameless Beauty', and 'Milton's North Star'. Mike was as creative in naming plants as in hybridizing. To walk though her garden is to wonder at the varieties and great sizes of many plants. Most of our gardens are younger with less mature stock. Her diverse garden is a testimony to Mike's many years of carefully nurturing her plants.
Herself a Bronze Medal winner, Mike knew the importance of recognizing the contributions of others and joyfully served on awards committees as a way to extend that thankfulness. Mike was a great encourager to others, particularly as they intersected her areas of interest. She was involved in supporting an association called Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities. Her role as medical director was invaluable to the health and safety of the disabled. She was able to raise awareness of the needs of disabled people of all ages working with this association using horse riding as a means of therapy.
Mike was supportive of the elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, the home of Tina, the elephant who was transferred there from Aldergrove. Mike was part of the support group network caring for elephants in both countries. She was also involved, for many years with the United Way.