JARS v47n1 - In Memoriam: Janet E. Binford

In Memoriam: Janet E. Binford
Siegfried Berthelsdorf
Portland, Oregon

Mrs. Janet Binford died quite suddenly of pulmonary failure at St. Vincent Hospital, Oct. 27, 1992. Born June 30, 1911, of Scottish Canadian descent, she spoke of her father's father, a 42nd Highlander, as "the tallest and strongest man in Ayershire!" at his time, a status which perhaps only a Scot can fully appreciate. She was born of an impoverished family just south of Salem in a farm cabin with a dirt floor, and the midwife did not consider the delivery important enough to register it.
She graduated in 1936 from Reed College. Going to school was most difficult because of her limited means. She left her work as librarian there and at Multnomah College in the interests of her future husband, Tom Binford. There is now a bronze plaque at Reed in her honor and a library room is named after her.
Her late brother, James Douglas Walker, a dentist of Chehalis, Wash., was a charter member of the Rhododendron Society. It was through his influence the society employed Binford and Mort for its first publications; the mutual interest in horticulture eventually drew her to join the society in 1961.
She took an active part in the social functioning of the Chapter, greeting the members, old and new, contributing to the sense of belonging. She was awarded a Bronze Medal and citation in 1973. In 1974 she was named vice-president of the Chapter, then assumed the presidency, the first woman so designated. She was editor and founder of the ARS & Azalea Newsletter, in 1980, and though it was short lived, showed her creative and literary interests.
She had a broad interest in plants, animals, Indian artifacts, and had a fine appreciation of many arts and crafts. Years ago with more enthusiasm than funds at that time she made an extraordinary collection of rare Indian baskets.
She was named ARS Western Vice-president 1982-83, assumed the presidency of the American Rhododendron Society in 1984-85, and again set a precedent as the first woman in that chair. The accomplishments are even more remarkable than one might assume, as she was in fact quite retiring in nature, sensitive, not at all a feminist, and never comfortable in any situation involving a competitive challenge.
Out of her strong interest in children she worked as a volunteer at Doernbecher Hospital for a number of years, later the Christie School, and more recently as a volunteer at Buckman School, for children of new immigrants, handicapped by language. By coincidence, she had gone to that school in her childhood. A special recognition of her contribution to Buckman was to have taken place almost on the very day of her death.
She had considerable meaning to many whom she had helped, gave freely of herself to many causes even though she was a person of modest means. She had her share of frustrations and disappointments, not the least of which was her great longing to have children of her own. She will be sorely missed.