JARS v56n1 - In Memoriam: August Ernest Kehr

In Memoriam: August Ernest Kehr
Janet Flick

Dr. August E. Kehr, 87, of Mallard Point, Cedar Falls, Iowa, formerly of Hendersonville and Arden, North Carolina, died Thursday, September 27, 2001, at his home of heart failure. His cremains will be buried in the Evergreen cemetery in Unadilla, New York.

August Ernest Kehr was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, on March 2, 1914. August was the youngest of seven children born to Carl Adolph Kehr and Anna Heller Kehr. The family moved to a farm near Unadilla, New York, when August was very young.

August earned a B.S. degree in General Agriculture from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in 1936. The new college graduate taught vocational agriculture and general science at the Unadilla High School from 1936 to 1942. During this period he met another young teacher from Pennsylvania, Mary Louise Coon. They married on December 26, 1942.

The couple then moved to Hudson, New York, where August continued teaching at the Hudson High School from 1942 to 1947. A daughter, Janet, was born on October 14, 1945.

August returned to his studies at Cornell University in 1947. He earned a M.S. degree in Agricultural Education and Agricultural Engineering and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding, Plant Pathology and Cytology in 1950. During this time August also held a Fellowship at Cornell University in Plant Breeding.

Upon receiving his Ph.D. the family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. August became an Associate Professor at Louisiana State University. His work at L.S.U. included breeding onions, shallots and garlic and doing cytogenetic studies on all vegetable crops.

From Baton Rouge, the family moved to Ames, Iowa, where August became a Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University as well as a Horticulturist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At I.S.U. August was in charge of breeding, genetics, cultural investigations of onions and potatoes and investigations of spontaneous plant tumors including tissue culture studies.

In 1958, the family again moved to Silver Spring, Maryland. August went to work at the United States Department of Agriculture Research Station in Beltsville. He continued with the USDA as Leader of Potato Investigations, then Assistant Chief of Vegetables and Ornamentals, then Chief of Vegetables and Ornamentals, and finally as Staff Scientist for the Agriculture Research Service.

August retired from the USDA in March 1978 but did not retire from his research activities. He and his wife built a beautiful home on 8 acres of woodland and meadow in Hendersonville. In the years of his retirement, August named and registered 9 azaleas, 12 rhododendrons and 31 magnolias. One of his many goals was to develop a yellow magnolia and a yellow azalea. He developed several yellow magnolias. His 'Sunspire' is featured on the cover of the Autumn 2001 Wayside Gardens catalog.

In August 2000 August and Mary Louise reluctantly parted with their home in Hendersonville and moved into an apartment in Arden, North Carolina. Since he could no longer grow his beloved magnolias, August turned part of his time and energy to creating ceramic magnolias as well as a host of other beautiful pieces.

In August 2001 they moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to be near their daughter and her family. Mary Louise's sister Genevieve also moved to Cedar Falls from Pennsylvania.

Memories of August almost always include the words intelligent, generous, kind, and gentle. He left behind a legacy of the plants he developed as well a wealth of people whose lives he touched.