In Memoriam: Harry Wise
The Middle Atlantic Chapter (MAC) lost a very valuable member on January 18, 2007. Harry Wise had been recovering from lung surgery he had in the late summer and suffered a fall when he went out to get the newspaper in January and two days later died at a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. A memorial service was held at Coonskin Park, where Harry had been active in planting and working in the park. Two county commissioners and a former governor were among the group who braved the bad winter weather to attend the service.
Harry had been very active in MAC and traveled long distances sometimes over icy roads from Charleston, W. Va., to most of the MAC meetings and board meetings wherever they were held. He joined ARS in 1965, was president of the chapter from 1981 to 1983, served as a MAC director, ultimately becoming Director Emeritus, a position he held at his death. He received the chapter's Bronze Medal in 1984. One very valuable job Harry did was act as chairman of the Nominations Committee where he could be counted on to come up with good candidates to fill officer and board positions over many, many years. He also started the chapter's Seedling Sale with proceeds totaling over $2500 going to the ARS Research Foundation over a period of years. Harry was active in helping establish the Rhododendron and Azalea Endowment Fund at University of Virginia Library and the Rhododendron and Azalea Manuscripts Collection there.
Harry served as an ARS District Director from 1988 to 1991. He received the American Horticultural Award of Merit in 1997 from the Garden Club of America, presented by the Kanawha Garden Club in recognition of his work for the ARS, the Master Gardeners, and Friends of Kanawha County Parks (Coonskin Park). Harry did much volunteer work at Coonskin Park planting, caring for, and maintaining rhododendrons, lilies, and irises. Harry said, "Plant propagating is one thing I truly enjoy. It's the science behind it...I grew up on a farm in Southern Alabama. I learned I did not want to be a farmer. That is work. This is fun."
Harry was a busy pollinator and hybridizer. He ran out of planting space for his seedlings and gave large numbers of them away. Many people will remember him fondly when they look at a mature seedling he gave them as a small plant.
Harry did not blow his own horn. He did so many things behind the scenes, helping people, cheering them up and helping them through difficult times. He will be remembered by many of us for his wise counsel. He was unfailingly generous, touched people of all ages, and expanded public awareness of Rhododendron. He was an enthusiastic worker, a good communicator, and expressed his opinions fearlessly. He had a good sense of humor and shared it with the chapter in some presentations he made. He was a faithful supporter of the chapter newsletter and supplied many leads and articles for it.
In 2004 Harry was honored with the ARS Silver Medal. Frank Pelurie had picked up the medal at the meeting in King of Prussia that Harry was not able to attend and later presented it to him.
Harry was no friend of deer since they destroyed so many rhododendrons. It is perhaps fitting that MAC's Doug Jolley, who arranged the memorial service for Harry in Coonskin Park, had to move a dead deer from his driveway the morning of the service before he could get out of his driveway.