JARS v57n1 - In Memoriam: Allan Richard Brooks

In Memoriam: Allan Richard Brooks
Bill Sweeney

A. Richard Brooks: April 27, 1928 (Dundee, Scotland) - October 7, 2002 (Concord, Massachusetts): A founder of the American Rhododendron Society Massachusetts Chapter in 1970; holder of many offices in the ARS including president of that chapter, District Director, Eastern Vice President, President of the ARS and then Past-President; recipient of many ARS awards including the Bronze Medal in 1981 and the Gold Medal in 1998 and numerous other awards including the Jackson Dawson Medal of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1999, and the Walter F. Winkler Award of the North American Rock Garden Society in October, 2002.

"Dick" Brooks as he was known to most of his friends, or "Richard" as he was known to his siblings - but never "Allan" - was one of those fortunate people who always know when a phone call is from a telemarketer. When the voice on the other end opened with the greeting "Hi, Allan!" as Dick once reported to me, he immediately knew he was in for a sales pitch. Being Dick, of course, he doubtless fended the salesman off with wry good humor, rather than indignation. We all experienced his good humor. I cannot recall hearing him speak an unkind word about any person. Of course, the same didn't hold true for any storm, drought, or deluge that damaged his garden!

Dick was a man of unbounded generosity, always willing to pitch in, to answer any questions, to teach and guide. For many chapter members he was responsible for their initial interest in rhododendrons and in the Society. He was truly a mentor for many of us. We all acknowledged this modest man as our chapter's spiritual leader, someone who could always be counted on - for information, advice, diplomacy, and mediation. His enthusiasm and love for rhododendrons was matched only by his desire to share them with everyone he met.

Dick's father managed a jute mill in India until Dick was five when the family immigrated to the US where he became a corporate accountant (not then a profession so much in the news)! They lived for many years in Needham, Mass. Dick established his first display garden there nearly sixty years ago before he graduated from high school. He installed 1,000 daffodils - all meticulously labeled, of course - in his parents' open lot next to their house. His sister Anne Perry still has Dick's "Visitors' Book" with the names of the hundreds of people who visited his garden. Neighbors from Needham still speak of it. Several of them came to the memorial service for Dick on Oct. 11th in Concord.

Horticulture was Dick's first avocation. According to members of his family, he would have been perfectly happy to make it his life's work. His father, however, pressed him to enter a more "serious" profession, like accounting. Dick chose architecture probably because of its combination of art and science - not so very different from horticulture.

After taking his degree in architecture from Harvard, Dick joined a firm that developed a high reputation for his designs of public buildings, but his love for horticulture continued unabated. He grew, hybridized, photographed, wrote about, and lectured on rhododendrons and other plants. After early retirement for health reasons, he operated Kalmia Woods Nurseries out of his home, specializing in unusual rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion plants.

Not everyone knew of his other avocations. He was an accomplished musician, choral singer, and composer. As a lark he composed recorder music in a mediaeval style for a relative's wedding under the name "Reichart Gärtner" - that is, "Richard the Gardener." He and his son Douglas and others then performed it. He was also a sculptural designer, artist, and an illuminator of exquisite manuscripts in gold and color. His nine-page exhibit of the 13th century Dies Irae in pen-and-ink on parchment illuminated in gold, handcrafted more than fifty years ago, went on show this summer at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord where he was a member.

He is survived by his wife, Jane, whom many of us know as a "dragee" to ARS events and as a frequent ARS volunteer herself, by his son Douglas (also an ARS member), his daughter Marion, and both of their spouses, by his two sisters, Priscilla and Anne (ARS Maine Chapter President), and by three grandchildren.

We will miss this "true renaissance man."