In Memoriam: Denise Stelloh
Denise "Deni" Stelloh died peacefully on August 13, 2008, at age 71, in the company of her husband, Bob, and three of her best friends. She is deeply missed by her husband Bob Stelloh, daughter Michelle Stratton, sister Paulette Sager, brother Jack Harang, Bob's daughters Kathleen and Jennifer Stelloh, and scores of loving friends.
Deni was a beautiful, vibrant, energetic, gracious and talented woman who lived life to its fullest. She was born and raised on Long Island, New York. Courses at the University of Arizona were the prelude to an entrepreneurial career as colorful as she was. She traveled the world as a stewardess with Pan-Am. After beginning as an account representative she rose to become president of Medical Billing Services Inc. in Oakland, California. She began a dog training company in Maryland, a fashion consulting company and a contract bridge club in North Carolina. She was superb at making new friends and at finding new interests and challenges to learn about and master.
She and Bob both became interested in azaleas soon after they married and moved to Potomac, MD., from Walnut Creek, Calif., in 1970. Typical of her enthusiasm and boundless energy, Deni jumped into gardening with both feet, soon filling up their townhouse lot, front and back, with evergreen and deciduous azaleas. Active in the Brookside Gardens Chapter - ASA soon after it formed, Deni eventually became their show chairman for at least ten years, and received their highest honor, the Frederic P. Lee Award, in 1988.
After a few years they moved from their townhouse to a house on a half-acre lot. When that filled up with azaleas, they charged their real estate lady to "find us about 5 acres of oak trees with a house." Once there, they began planning and planting "Kairaku" (Japanese for "joint pleasure"), a large wooded hillside garden, just in time to be on tour as a young garden of promise for the 1988 ASA convention.
Deni's friendship with George Harding, one of the founders of the ASA, led to her and Bob having lead roles in the design and planting of the George Harding Memorial Azalea Garden at River Farm, headquarters of the American Horticultural Society in Alexandria, Virginia, dedicated in 1994.
Upon Bob's retirement they followed such garden giants as Henry Skinner, Augie Kehr and John Creech to Hendersonville, North Carolina in 1996. This time they found two sloping acres of mature oaks, tulip poplars, pines, sourwoods and dogwoods, R. maximum and mountain laurel, and even a few native R. calendulaceum, R. arborescens and R. viscosum - with a house. Soon a more manageable one-acre "Kairaku" emerged, with over 600 mature plants from the old garden, in time to be toured on the 2001 ASA convention as another young garden of promise...and again on the 2008 ASA convention. She was also the show chairman for the Southeastern Chapter - ARS for a number of years, and received their Bronze Medal in 2001.
Deni lived her life fully, enjoying people, gardening, bridge and animals. She was an inspiration to everyone she met. It was my privilege to have had that inspiration for 38 years.