JARS v58n1 - In Memoriam: Orris Thompson

In Memoriam: Orris Thompson
E. White Smith

Our friend and Tacoma Chapter member passed away on October 23, 2003. He was born in 1918. Orris did many things including building his own telescopes which he often used from his home porch on the hill above Point Defiance Park. He also went on field trips with other amateur astronomers.

Orris and I were in the first Master Gardener class held in the old Grange Hall in Fife. That was over thirty years ago and Orris was one of the only two people still active from that class with Master Gardeners. This first class in Fife was the start of the Master Gardener program in the United States. There is a Master Gardener program in every county in America; it all started here and Orris was for sure one of the important leaders.

Orris worked for years at Point Defiance Park greenhouses as Horticulture Director. He was instrumental in moving the Rhododendron Garden at Point Defiance from the zoo area to its location on the Five Mile Drive in the park. Orris did much of the work and cared for the garden for many years as it was established. Even after retiring he still volunteered at the greenhouses. I can’t remember a Tacoma flower show that Orris was not helping with and he often had the best plants or trusses in the shows.

Orris was Tacoma Chapter president during 1978 and 1979. He also was with a bunch of us when we located a native population of Lewisia tweedii in the Wenatchee Mountains. He and his good friend George Ryan went on many hikes in the mountains looking at plants. Orris was a postal employee in Yakima and then had a nursery near South Prairie. He also worked for Monrovia Nursery in Los Angeles and Buckley Nursery. Orris operated his own small nursery at his home in Tacoma where he raised mainly azaleas. For many years he sold his plants at the Rhododendron Species Foundation sales.

For years, Orris, George Ryan, Stan Pugh and I would meet for lunch on Thursdays and Orris always brought something along, be it an old newspaper article or a rhodie truss, always something.

A Good Friend Gone But Never Forgotten. R.I.P. Orris.