In Memoriam: Everett G. Hall
Everett passed away on July 9, 2006, of complications following heart surgery. As those who knew him would expect, he was laughing, joking and bringing smiles to family, friends and even hospital staff after the operation. Everett always had an upbeat and positive approach to life, and one could not be in his company for more than a few minutes without experiencing at least a broad smile and chuckle, if not that genuine belly laugh with which he would bend nearly double. He was a vibrant participant in living, and Everett’s absence leaves a void for wife Shirley, their family and many, many friends in the gardening world and elsewhere. The ARS has lost a member of more than forty years, and rhododendrons have lost a passionate advocate who went well beyond simply words.
A native Oregonian, Everett was born in Eugene on April 18, 1926. Following graduation from Eugene High School he served in the U. S. Army during World War II, and received the Purple Heart for combat wounds during the battle for Okinawa in the South Pacific. Following the war, continuing what was to become a long and distinguished career in public service, Everett joined the Eugene Fire Department in 1948.
Everett’s leadership skills and ability to relate to people at all levels resulted in his advance through the ranks in the Fire Department to the position of Eugene’s Fire Chief in 1972. In 1981, with his guidance and in cooperation with Springfield and Lane County, a plan was developed and implemented to provide emergency medical services to the central Lane County area.
Along the way, this busy gentleman somehow found time to further his formal education. He earned a degree in Fire Protection Technology from Lane Community College and was a graduate of Oregon Fire Administrators Institute at Western Oregon State University.
In 1990 Everett announced his intention to retire from the Eugene post; however, his well-known expertise within the profession then brought appointment as Oregon State Fire Marshall. Everett’s outstanding contributions were recognized by many awards during his career, one of which was the United States Congressional Award for Excellence in fire service leadership. This and other professional accolades were largely unknown among his rhododendron friends, as he was not one to advertise personal accomplishments.
After serving as State Fire Marshall for two and a half years, and more than 45 years in eminent public service, retirement in 1993 meant more time for gardening, travel and spending time with family and friends.
A summary of this expert plantsman’s participation in The American Rhododendron Society, via the Eugene Chapter and later the Siuslaw Chapter, is difficult to capture in these few words. He served on the board in both chapters, and just recently completed a term as president at the Siuslaw Chapter. He wrote about rhododendrons frequently over the years, and most recently, in addition to the President’s Column, authored a regular feature for the monthly Siuslaw Chapter Newsletter which described a different species each month, also discussing its attributes and often offering cultural hints from personal experience. He was a long time participant in Eugene’s study group that developed a list of "Recommended Rhododendrons" that goes well beyond the more traditional good doer list, providing information by flower color, size and growth habit, bloom period, cultural and siting considerations.
In contrast to his personal accomplishments, Everett did trumpet the cause of rhododendrons as he shared his passion for the genus in many ways. Fire stations in Eugene, for example, are landscaped with rhododendrons as a result of his direct efforts. Nor are they just any cultivar but rather special selections demonstrating his expertise in choosing what does well in various conditions. In many cases they are plants donated from his own garden. That sort of generosity included fellow members of the ARS, and many of us are growing plants that were a gift from Everett or which he donated as chapter door prizes, or for raffles and auctions.
The purchase in 1965 of property and a cabin at Mercer Lake on the Oregon coast became the basis for a significant expansion in his rhododendron collection and, particularly after his retirement, for increased participation in the Siuslaw Chapter. In recent years he spearheaded the R. macrophyllum project, seeking out and then propagating superior forms of that ubiquitous and often overlooked species. It commonly grows in nearly impenetrable thickets along the coast, which Everett tackled with his usual zest as he logged many miles searching for, and finding, the very best. Yet another favorite project was Gallagher Park in Florence. He was a public advocate for the park’s expansion and improvement as a rhododendron showplace, a contributor of plants to enhance it and a tireless worker in the unglamorous tasks of maintaining the garden. His efforts frequently became an unspoken challenge to other members to keep up with his pace.
Everett was a fierce competitor at annual flower shows, and more than once was the sweepstakes winner for most points in show. Despite that, and with much good-natured kidding, he was equally happy when others won with their entries. Indeed, Everett had for what seemed forever headed up Classification at the Eugene show as he helped in identifying and making sure competitors’ entries were placed in the proper class. His ability to recognize and name a wide variety of both species and hybrids was both well known and frequently relied upon by fellow members.
Both the Eugene Chapter and the Siuslaw Chapter had recognized Everett’s outstanding contributions over the years by awarding him the ARS Bronze Medal. Only a very few have been thus honored by more than one chapter.
Though he could be serious when necessary, perhaps most memorable was his exuberance and ability to make everyone feel welcome and to have a good time while enjoying rhododendrons - or whatever the activity. We shall all miss that gift but are better for having experienced it.