QBARS - v26n4 In Memory of Joseph Benson Gable

In Memory of Joseph Benson Gable 1886-1972
Charles Herbert, Valley Forge Chapter

Joseph B. Gable
FIG. 87. Joseph B. Gable

My beloved friend, Joseph Gable was called by his maker on July 20, 1972. The knowing of Joe is a treasured friendship, not only to me but of the many, many friends who knew and loved him. He was a warm, gracious person meriting everyone's respect and admiration. Joe not only worked with the propagating of Rhododendrons, but lived them as well.

Joe's interest in them came when he was a soldier in World War I. Marching down a dusty road in England in 1918 near Winchester, with his brass horn, through the picketed fence of the Hillier Nursery, he saw blooming plants he'd never imagined in his Pennsylvania Hills. Handing his horn to a fellow bandsman, he stood transfixed by the Rhododendrons. He then thought how he would like to grow them when he got home.

He subscribed to the seed collection of the late Dr. Rock of the Arnold Arboretum in 1923. Dr. Rock brought back many packets of seed. Among them was R. vernicosum , a native Chinese species. The seed yielded few plants that grew to an impressive height, but it took until 1952 to produce the first flower bud. For a breeder of Joe's standards there were constant temptations to stray from the pure art. He was tortured by the necessity for selling plants that he considered less than perfect. His plants are perhaps the most durable of their kind.

Of his colleagues, Gable's longest friendship has been with Guy Nearing, a fellow hybridist, who lives in Ramsey, N.J. Between Nearing and Joe had grown the candid trustful exchange that is valued by all scientists.

Joe's proudest creations were his Rhododendrons which were just about their peak at the time of his death. For Joe the genus Rhododendron promised superlative beauty in one's own back yard. Joe freely released them to the commercial nurserymen and many are on the market.

The American Rhododendron Society awarded Joe in 1953 its highest honor, the Gold Medal Award. His plants are priceless. Single handed, he produced the finest things our gardens are likely to see.

The Methodist Church knew Joe as an inspiring Sunday School teacher, whose young men's class organized more than 40 years ago is still intact. The town knows Joe as a man who helped his neighbors, paid his debts, kept his word and joined in civic endeavors.

O may this bounteous God

Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in his grace,

And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.