JARS v60n2 - In Memoriam: Dave Crabb

In Memoriam: Dave Crabb
Mike Bale

We are saddened by the passing of Dave Crabb on January 16, 2006. Dave was born on July 22, 1921, at Brechin, Scotland, the only son of Alexander and Beatrice Crabb. He left school at the early age of 14 to become an apprentice stonemason. He voluntarily joined the Territorial Army and in 1939 was conscripted into the regular army at the outbreak of war. He served with the "Desert Rats" in North Africa and subsequently in Italy and Greece. He remained in the army until the cessation of hostilities in 1945 and then returned to Scotland and resumed his trade.
He subsequently joined British Telecom and moved to Aberdeen where he met his future wife, Ella. They married on November 14, 1953, and shortly thereafter immigrated to begin a new life in Canada. They initially settled in Toronto but after a few months relocated to Vancouver where Dave joined BC Telephone Company and remained with the company until his retirement in 1980.
After living in several different locations, Dave and Ella eventually moved to Langley in 1983 and shortly thereafter joined the Vancouver Rhododendron Society. They quickly developed a passion for rhododendrons and sought select plants from many sources and traveled far and wide to add them to their collection in Langley. Among their sources, they were particularly attached to plants obtained from Bernard Nelson's nursery in Sedro Woolly, the Whitney's nursery on Bainbridge Island, Clint Smith, Leslie Clay, the Finleys and some from Jack Lofthouse. Their garden became a Mecca for rhododendron enthusiasts and eventfully grew to many hundreds of plants. Dave had a fondness for the large and fluffy trusses such as 'Diane Titcomb' and 'Point Defiance' but also had a great attachment to 'Lem's Stormcloud'. Dave and Ella were regular contributors to the Vancouver Truss Show and were very successful winning many trophies for the "Best in Show" and "Highest Aggregate." Dave became particularly adept at propagating and built his own propagating facility with an automatic sprinkler system. With this equipment, he was extremely successful and regularly propagated hard to root plants such as 'Lem's Cameo'. Dave and Ella attended many conferences, including the ones held at Newport, Tacoma and Seattle. They also participated in many of the bus tours organized by Harold Johnson and visited the Gardens of Victoria in 1991 and the Malahat Gardens in 1992. Dave developed an expertise in computers and the plants were all labeled and entered into various categories on the computer database.
In 1988, together with several other individuals, they helped found the Fraser South Chapter. Ella volunteered her services as newsletter editor and quickly provided some direction to the other members. Dave and his brother-in-law Sandy were quickly volunteered to help build the mobile storage unit for the library. Over the following years, Dave and Ella provided much energy and enthusiasm for the chapter. For their efforts, they were awarded the Bronze Medal in 1993 with the citation: "This Bronze Medal is awarded for their efforts as Chartered Members of the Fraser South Chapter of the A.R.S. Ella has served, assisted by Dave, as editor of the newsletter. Dave built cabinets for the library, and they graciously open their garden, donate plants, and assist at plant sales. For their leadership and encouragement to the chapter, we award this medal."
In the summer of 1993 Dave and Ella made a decision to relocate to Vancouver Island. They intended to establish a more modest garden in Qualicum and therefore decided to take only their smaller and highly valued plants with them. They invited a number of local members to acquire plants from them and many of these were obtained and formed the foundation plants for the Lu Zhu garden. Dave and Ella purchased a regular sized lot in Qualicum and began to develop a new and wonderful garden. In the fall of 1994 Ella became seriously ill and succumbed precipitously in November. Dave was devastated, and in his anguish and accompanied by his faithful dog, Rhodo, relocated back to the Mainland and settled in Aldergrove.
Dave quickly resumed his involvement with Fraser South Chapter and readily helped sell raffle tickets at the meetings using his Scottish beguile to encourage participation and purchase more tickets. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Garden Tours and in 2000 joined the tour to Qualicum and Tofino. The group had an opportunity to visit the garden which Dave had established when he first moved there and which was beautifully maintained and nurtured by the new owners, Nancy and Vic Vickers. Upon arrival in Tofino the tour was greeted by 4 inches of rain over 4 hours and most of the participants became thoroughly drenched. Upon observing one lady in obvious distress, Dave searched into his handgrip and pulled out a pair of thick, wooly socks and advised the lady, "Here, lassie, put these on - if your feet get cold you'll freeze to death!" In 2002 Dave joined the tour to Victoria and in 2003 again participated in the tour to Portland.
He had a wonderful, dry sense of humour and was a man of many talents. He readily shared his knowledge and experience with anyone who would listen or sought his advice. He was passionate about many animals and had, for many years, bred and raised a large number of budgerigars. He was deeply attached to his dog who accompanied him wherever he traveled. He was a quiet and modest man, gifted with many talents and humour. Though born of modest stature he became a giant among his confreres.